I get excited about reading the Bible. I'm a big fan. I also love a lot of the things in the gathering of the church on Sunday mornings. One of the beautiful things I've learned about the Anglican liturgy is the way you can celebrate parts of a service with scripted words. Today we had Adele take the service because our other chaplains were unavailable for various reasons. Though she's retired, she's still excited to celebrate the elements of the service. Celebrate. Let me tell you, that is the right word to describe how Adele reads the liturgy. She is excited about the work of God in the church, and it makes me excited to be a part of it.
My class will be doing their "design a church" project this week, and I've had so many conversations over the covid years about what the purpose of church is. My pastor wrote a convicting article in Christianity Today last edition about how important it is for the church to gather together. There's something exciting about Adele lifting her hands up and shouting out the script to celebrate communion that gets me excited too; the same emotional engagement isn't possible when I'm not in a gathering of believers.
As I set up the church project at the end of last week, I asked my students what are the key elements in a church service. My first class period said a sermon and worship - but the gathering/fellowshipping/people element was not on their list without prompting. My second class period came up with it (having over twice as many kids), and I was talking to a coworker about how shocking that was to me that students didn't see community as an important element of the church. For those of you who aren't part of the church, this is something that you should know. You should also know that the church is made up of complicated, messy people, and no gathering of Christians gets everything perfect (because there are people involved).
I still have a lot of scattered thoughts about the purpose of church, but one thing I know is that whatever it means to be made in the image of God, it has to do with relationship. I got to hang out and talk to a lot of different Jesus followers this past week, and they come from diverse theological and political backgrounds. Each of them have some element of encouragement for me to celebrate in how I can grow closer to Jesus.
One of the best moments of my week was having tea with a friend from church who is moving to Ireland in a few weeks. She has a similar heart and passion for prayer, and we've bonded over conversations about praying for people. I invited her over so we could pray together, and I was so richly blessed by the conversation and opportunity to lift my sister up before the Lord in prayer. Following a Holy Spirit nudge, I prayed for her to be like a lighthouse as she represented Jesus in a new place, and she told me that was a beautiful image because there was a lighthouse nearby where she will be living. What a celebration that was to pray for each other and be excited about the new things God is stirring up and leading each of us into.
As I was reflecting on my week this afternoon preparing to write, I had plenty of struggles with my leg spasms and bladder that I could have focused on, but Adele's joy from this morning's service was what really stuck out to me. As we celebrate communion in the church service, we are remembering the death of Christ but also his resurrection - we know the end of the story as we take the bread and wine. I believe God is working healing in my body, but I don't know the end of the story of my disability; that does not stop me from celebrating the God of all healing.