Again the raucous cries of a jay were the first sounds this morning. A territorial dispute, is my guess. I guess this because I have a recording of various bird calls. The steller’s jay call I have played a couple of times. It starts off with a staccato screech. Each time I play it the nearby jays look up and fly away hurriedly.
That was the sound the jay made this morning, after he landed on the balcony behind another. The other flew away.
Tiny green leaves are forming on the california black oak sapling behind my balcony. Damage done while cutting the pines was not severe enough apparently to stop the ways of nature. Cedar saplings are emerging from the ground all around, in surprising places. This is odd to me, for the neighbor has had an empty yard for a year now, trees removed have not been replaced. This yard is full of new life, Must be holy ground. The sun feels warm this morning, no breeze to bring cool air from higher up.
A few weeks ago I went back to my old church, one of the more matronly members asked me what I was up to, where I was going to church.
“I haven’t been,” I said, knowing this is not a welcomed statement.
She asked, “Have you forsaken the body?”
How do I respond to this? In popular understanding I have.
“No,” I said, “I’ve just stopped going to Sunday morning lectures.”
When a person says stuff like this, it usually is backed up by some kind of theological or emotional stance. Not me. Nor is it laziness. I take Church very seriously, maybe too seriously. The only problem for me is I believe that a person is supposed to commit to a place, and I also believe that Church is significantly more than whatever happens on a Sunday morning.
Too much of church going has the character of obligation more than edification. Very few people I know are genuinely excited to get in their cars and go to church. But, the early Christians and latter day persecuted followers were and are willing to risk death in order to meet together.
So, I don’t go, because there is nothing in an hour and a half sunday morning service which I find edifying, nor can I use my gifts in the context of an audience. I do not say this with glee, and I say this knowing the litany of arguments which can be made against me. I would say that I feel God has had me distanced from a Church, that it is he who has led me to step back, that I feel peace in not committing to a congregation, only these statements wouldn’t be accepted by someone demanding Sunday morning attendance, and are unneeded by someone who does not demand the same.
Have I forsaken the body? No. In fact, I never am outside the body. My whole life is spent in the context of those seeking to find Christ. I miss a lecture on a spiritual theme, and about five songs which identify themselves as ‘worship’. I never worship while I sing, and, to be honest, I get very little out of the morning lecture. I worship while I play music, or while I stand in the majesty of the forest or float in the beauty of the lake. Singing is worship for those who can sing, it is not for those who don’t.
Communion. I have no replacement for taking the bread and wine (juice). That’s a point which I think about. This is a significant act indeed. Though, it is a meaningless rite without the reality of which it speaks. It celebrates communion, it does not create it. I could argue back and forth, to be sure. Suffice to say this is the one area I do consider as missing.
Antony heard the message of Christ calling him, and he sold all of his many possessions, then went to live in the desert. He didn’t simply change his weekly routine, he moved away to solitude, to where God was leading him. Many, many have done the same.
So, it is not without tradition. Only we don’t know those traditions. We only know the traditions which include the focus of power for those who are called to pass on the traditions.
The age of monasticism was begun by men and women who sought Christ, and realized what they sought was not to be found in the increasingly garish churches. To find Christ they had to go away, forsake the body for the Body. Very few did this alone, finding new unity in alternate ways.
Maybe this is the answer in our era, a new form of monasticism, one which learns from the mistakes of the past, which holds onto the dictates of Scripture, without the burden of accreted traditions, traditions which in too many cases are the reassertion of power by those seeking to be the head.
The depths of the church were built by these men and women, the habits of prayer and sober living, the example of full pursuits of God. Yet, the protestant tradition threw out the baby when it got rid of the bath water. Nothing besides hard work and dutiful acceptance of pastoral authority is allowed. This was easier in a time when pastors were really the most educated people around. Now, though, they are often not even the most religiously educated people in a church.
We have kept the forms, the words, the framework of Church, but have lost the meaning, the depths, the reality of a body which comes to grow together, to be edified by the use of all the gifts. So, I consider again my status, my leap into the void, and miss the reality which Church is supposed to provide, as a place to learn and teach, give and receive. My opinion and decision was based on the fact that empty shells do not provide Christ, that those who are seeking to be the head are not worthy of my devotion.
I’m not sure my point in all of this. I am thinking about this morning, and its meaning, feeling at peace with how I’ve spent the last many months away. The Spirit moves more broadly than in the context of a church campus, and forsaking the body does not mean avoiding a Sunday morning. Indeed, there are many pastors, many elders, many attenders who forsake the body on a weekly basis, even with regular attendance.
I yearn for more to be sure, I also will not accept less any longer. If the church is no longer acting as the body, then other formats must be found. The Spirit is fluid, like wind and water, always moving towards the goal. That is who I wish to follow, and in doing so may recover ancient traditions which have been lost and forgotten or dismissed.
My goal is Christ, and I share this goal with a great many other people, most of whom are not excited to be leaving their homes this morning. I want to be excited.
I also will likely be leaving my home this morning and trying out one of the local churches.
We’ll see how it goes. It is how my heart leads this morning, and seems to be the next step. To be honest, I’m a little nervous.