Indulge me? I need to write of beautiful things today.
The old things.
The hoped for things.
We meet in a field, a few hours before dusk. There are tables set all around, different shapes and sizes—there is one turquoise, another magenta, another cherry oak, as dark as its first stain. The chairs are from houses and the abandoned places, they fit because someone occupies them, because they are dwelt upon, they are signs of ordinary redemption. Perhaps there are many of us, perhaps there is a handful.
It begins with blessing, a saint present or past, the sign of the cross made over these gathered, we in turn following the motion, all this being done, all this to be done, in the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. This strikes the opening note, this call to worship around our tables. The tables slowly filled by those who have spent the Sabbath afternoon baking and cooking out their faith in fear and trembling, pouring grace into measuring jugs and measuring it between the butter and cloves. This is offering, the gifts of God for the people of God.
At each table, someone leads the prayer, a community formed of four or twelve or more or less, formed in the gathered space, families joined with those not known before, made known again. Perhaps there are new pilgrims, given new spaces, given the first and best of the table, asked to sit and to be, to speak if they want, to listen if they need, asked to surrender nothing of themselves but what they are ready to give.
And so the eating goes, the laughter and the chatter, a cacophony of praise in the little field, in the little patch of earth upon which the Name of God has been spoken. If there are any in need, they are listened to, they are loved, they are fed from whatever table they seek nourishment from. If there are homeless, they are found homes. If there are naked, they are clothed. What can be offered is given, what cannot be given is prayed for in faith.
When we speak of the churches we come from, the denominations we have known, we speak with the perspective of hope and grace. Those not among us are not despised, or even thought of as wrong. We are here for this is where we have been brought, where we have been found. We share our table spiritually with all who confess Christ. This is the joy of Him. And there are no bishops, no authorities, no rule. Our rule is the confession of the Creeds, the authority of Scripture, the service of being Christ to each other.
And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.
When the forks have stilled and the knives have been set down, when the glasses of wine are half drunk and the water jugs are nearly empty, we stand and draw together around the central table, the high table, upon which rests the bread, the wine, the water. The bread was made the evening before, at dusk, without leaven. In a rotation of homes, by those gifted to bake and those not, for in this there is no wrong, in this bread is no flaw. The Scripture is on this altar. Word has its place beside the bread and the wine and the water.
We sing hymns, the old and ancient, the new and true. Perhaps there are instruments, perhaps there is a talent in this, perhaps there are moments of deep silence, moments of deep, proclaiming prayer. Intermittent, we read the lectionary: Psalm, Old Testament, Epistle. When it comes time for the Gospel, the Scripture is held high and we bow, we make the sign of the cross, we sing an old hymn from Philippians, of the One who came down from the high altar to dwell among us. And Scripture is brought down, into our midst, and the Gospel is read in the tangle of us, and we respond, Praise be to thee, Lord Christ. Then we sing and proclaim until it is all out, every last bit of alleluia, and we take our seats once more.
Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Someone stands among us, preaches on these fragment words of Scripture we have heard, draws the meaning of them together. The words are brief, fifteen minutes, perhaps. After the words, we join in professing the Creed. We declare what we believe, we make known the marked boundaries of our Faith, the walls of Zion. Then the elders take turns in their speech: men and women, young and old, one who knows Hebrew, the other Greek, one a poet, one a surgeon, people known to be touched by a particular beauty of Faith, that we have seen for ourselves and known to see in them the face of God, and they comment in turn on what has been said, they give different perspectives on the same beauty, for having professed the Creed, we are free to speak within the walls of the True, to see Him in our own ways, to discern together what is of Him.
Following, if there are baptisms, we gather at the river. The one who led the other to the way of Grace is the one that places hand over mouth, who pronounces renewal in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, who dips death into Life and raises up life, who welcomes brother or sister, as we sing and clap and weep for the beauty and the awe of it all.
(There is so much more to say, but no space. Do I tell you of how we follow the church year, of how we sing in different languages, of how we care for the sick? There is so much more to say.)
And then we pray, around the tables, around one another, whispered things, loud things, we pray out the need of the nations, the need of our hearts, the need of our community. Until every last amen has been uttered, until every last thing that needs saying has been said.
For then, at our tables, we turn to the high table. One of the elders blesses the bread and the wine, which is mixed with a bit of the water. The Scripture is read, along with that one portion of the sixth chapter of the Gospel of St. John, and the Lord’s Prayer is whispered among us.
Then the servers go forward, men and women, old and young, priests one to another, bringing forth Body and Blood to the tables, where together is shared the gift of God for the people of God.
Into our hands we have torn Body placed, to our lips shed Blood. We speak the words of Life to each other, make the sign of blessing on foreheads, weep and laugh and cherish, wonder and awe.
And when everyone has been fed of Him, when Body and Blood have been made known, the last of the hymns are sung, slow and full, so loud it could crack the firmament of heaven to spill into this space, a Power as old as the foundations of the world.
The last thing spoken: And the blessing of God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, keep you in the knowledge of God and the love of God forever.
The Amen could move a mountain.
In silence we clean, we dismantle, we place leftovers in the hands of the hungry, we go in peace to love and serve the Lord, we go with a Song in our hearts.
We go with this being our ordinary.
I had a few inquries wondering if this meant I had left the Church. No; what I had left was the stability of a certain church in search for another place here to call home, to lay down roots.
I am still looking.
I had someone tell me that they thought I enjoyed not fitting in, not finding a place.
I only could blankly, slowly blink at this.
What I have written above is a bit of fiction, is a bit of ideal. I wish I could go to this church, I wish I could know it here, in Scotland, on the sea, at the end of the world.
But I am still searching. I am still seeking.
But I needed to set this out, I needed to lay out what it is I am looking for.
I am looking for the feeling of this.
I am looking for the good of this.
I am looking for believer’s baptism and emphasis on the Eucharist, for feeding the homeless and love of the saints.
I am looking for people being Jesus unto one another.
I am looking, knowing that this place is the not yet place.
I am content to look for the feeling of it, for the heart of it, for the place within people that know this wanting, too.
When I dream of church, I dream of this. I dream of people who dream of this, too.
I don’t like not fitting, not finding a place. But I don’t like settling for less simply because the dream seems too big.
He is a big God.
His Church is a beautiful Church.
So I dream.
So I dream a little big dream.
To the glory of God the Father.