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Church

February 13 2013
17

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Almost ten years ago now our family began attending an Anglican church. I was just coming off a rending ministry experience and we were looking for a place to get stitched up, even loved on a little bit. A good friend mentioned this beautiful church with Rwandan roots, and we’d had enough velveteen rubbed off to try anything. So we did.

My wife grew up Catholic so many aspects of the liturgy were familiar to her. I, however, grew up Southern-fried Baptist, so liturgy was always something sorta outlaw, and as such appealed to me to no end. I had tried different liturgical movements as a pastor in the Baptist churches I served but alas, all is possible but not all profitable. But when I walked into that stained-glass ark-like chapel where not preaching but communion was the focal point of the morning, well, I felt like Odysseus hearing the voices of home –

The gifts of God for the people of God.
Take them in remembrance that Christ died for you,
and feed on Him in your heart by faith and with thanksgiving.
 

Not long after we began attending, Lent rolled around with the requisite Ash Wednesday service to kick off the season. I left early that Wednesday morning, swinging by the chapel before work started, and when that dear priest (who recently was consecrated a bishop) rubbed that gritty ash on my lily-white forehead, something changed. Observable to the naked eye? Doubt it. But to those who cared enough to pay attention, yes, I believe they could sense something different, that here was a man (me) wading deeper into a stream that’s been running for God knows how long. The Baptists taught me to swim, and for that I say ‘thank you’ every day; it is not a slight thing. And the Anglicans taught me to float, to trust the current. The river is dangerous, but as big Jim Harrison says, ‘only the water is safe.’ Yeah, put that one in your pipe and smoke it awhile.

I know the tales of spiritual pilgrimages are legion. I actually find that comforting, that people are always taking steps, some big, some baby, toward the Grace that keeps this world. For me that’s what the Lenten season is, another pilgrimage, another trip down the days different than last year but also somewhat the same, a shriving inching toward that dilapidated sky where the thirty-something long-haired hero I have loved since I was a boy hangs pinned to the wall of time and through his purpled lips whispers ‘remember, nothing can separate you from me.’

I will miss our Ash Wednesday service this evening. I’m skiing in the Colorado mountains; a few runs, then stop and rub the knees, then a few more. In the economy of God nothing is wasted, so I am not a bit surprised that with each lift back up the hill an old Baptist hymn hangs gentle on my mind – Whiter than snow, yes whiter than snow.

 

***There are a number of Lenten resources available. I mention two – Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter from Orbis Books and Simplifying The Soul: Lenten Practices to Renew Your Spirit by Paula Huston. Of course there are many others. My encouragement is simply pick one. Don’t fret too much about which one…trust the current.

 

17 comments

  1. “The Baptists taught me to swim, and for that I say ‘thank you’ every day; it is not a slight thing. And the Anglicans taught me to float, to trust the current.” I get this. Thank you for sharing it so eloquently.

    Reply
    • this is what grabbed me, too, Brenna.

      and I agree, John, you’ve wrapped this thought in beautiful vernacular.

      Reply
      • Thank you, Kelli…’beautiful vernacular’ – I like that very much.

        Reply
      • Exactly what grabbed me, too – as always, however, every word grabs some piece of my heart. Thank you, John, for this reverie and for the small peeks it allows into your soul. That is always gift.

        Reply
    • Thank you for reading, Brenna.

      Reply
  2. Beautiful.
    I grew up singing hymns in a small, west Texas Southern Baptist church. Now I’m in an Episcopal church because I want the Eucharist more than I want a 45-minute sermon. But those hymns are always floating back to mind.
    It has all been very good. Jesus has always been very good.

    Reply
  3. Thanks for sharing John. I guess my faith is a bit of a “mutt.” I grew up Presbyterian,(And my wife grew up Lutheran) but I am now part of a Pentecostal Denomination (Foursquare) I love where God has lead me but I have started to miss the responsive reading, the Catechism class etc. So I wonder what is God up to for my future?

    Reply
    • Jon, I understand the mutt status. We’ve moved on to a Lutheran congregation and our kids are going through confirmation classes…I’m guessing God is up to something good, for both of us.

      Reply
  4. As one with similarly southern-fried roots, I love this.

    Reply
    • Jessica, those roots run deep don’t they? Thanks for reading.

      Reply
  5. Eva Needham

    You’re scratching where I itch John. Thank you for this.

    Reply
    • Eva, you are welcome…I appreciate your comment.

      Reply
  6. “For me that’s what the Lenten season is, another pilgrimage, another trip down the days different than last year but also somewhat the same, a shriving inching toward that dilapidated sky where the thirty-something long-haired hero I have loved since I was a boy hangs pinned to the wall of time and through his purpled lips whispers ‘remember, nothing can separate you from me.’”

    Thank God there is always one more pilgrimage. I’m a sucker for them. And every pilgrimage seems to result in those same haunting words, “Nothing can separate.”

    Reply
  7. Amen and amen.

    As one who grew up independent Baptist in central NY, who then went on to pastor, albeit as an interim, an Anglican church, this resonates deeply with me.
    Thank you for putting some beautiful words to the ache.

    Reply

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