Saturday, June 9, 2012

Church: why don't I fit in?

One of my favorite Christmas television programs is "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer." Yeah, the animation is crude, but it's a good story. I mean, who doesn't love Yukon Cornelius? Anyway, one of the themes in the story is how so-called misfits find fulfillment and a place to fit in. The songs of Herbie and Rudolph touch the hearts of many people, including me.
Herbie: Why am I such a misfit?
I am not just a nitwit.
You can't fire me I quit,
since I don't fit in.
Rudolph: Why am I such a misfit?
I am not just a nitwit.
Just because my nose glows,
why don't I fit in?
I feel this way...Why don't I fit in? I used to think that I could belong with people who were anti-everything except rock-n-roll and peace. (Ok, I'm dating myself here.) But, I found that I did not fit in with the reality of society and economics. So, I joined with those who call themselves conservative. I even had a sign in 1980 that read, "Vote Republican for a change." I set myself within the evangelical church and gave myself wholeheartedly to the white, middle-class conservative chase for the American dream. Again, I did not fit in. I led worship for many years in a church that embraced a personal relationship with God through Christ and a literal approach to the scriptures. Our Reformed theology informed our understanding of life in the Body of Christ. Don't fit there, either. I have attended liturgical churches. I really like them! The liturgies speak volumes that a church that sings some songs then has a lecture cannot. But, here again, I can't seem to fit the Creator/Yahweh who walked among us into these ecclesial boxes. And, I don't really fit all that well.
So, I have brought this to Yahweh in prayer. Where do I fit?!?! Well, God has not said, "Mike! Go there! You will fit in nicely." What I have begun to sense, however, is a need to re-imagine church. There is a lot of material in the scriptures to feed the imagination. There is also quite a lot of church history that can inform reflection. What I have been considering so far has to do with living 'abundantly.' John the Evangelist wrote in chapter 10 about Jesus, the good shepherd, coming in order to bring 'abundant life' in contrast to those who came to destroy life. There has been a lot of discussion about what this 'abundant life' looks like. Most of the talk has to do with trying to live a morally exemplary life in which God is able to bestow blessings on those practitioners. God can pour out abundance on those who follow God's law. Sorry, too much like self-works to me. This appears to be some humanly induced means to an end.
I was reading Taliesin, by Shephen Lawhead and stumbled across something that caused a spark of understanding. In the story, Elphin, the king of a tribe of Britons, has just returned with his warband from service to Rome for the last time. A great feast and celebration was ordered. In it, the
meat began to sizzle...Beer, foamy and dark, and sweet, golden mead flowed in gushing fountains from barrela and butt to horn and jar. Whole carcasses of beef, pork and mutton roasted on massive iron spits. The caer rang end to end in song, strong Celtic voices soaring like birds in wild, joyous flight.
Eventually, Hafgan the bard, stood to sing a song of might and victory. This, to me, sounded like abundant life! It was a full-blown community celebration complete with pigs & beer; stories & songs; food, fun and koinonia.
I also think of the early gatherings of the saints for meals with wine & song & Word. I think of Jesus at Cana; the Son of Man eating and drinking. I think of Boaz and the community gathered at the harvest. I imagine their joy in that culture deeply connected to God's good Earth. I remember gathering with brothers and sisters to watch a football game on the tube with chili and beer. I imagine people who live hard and love hard. I imagine Church. What would this look like fleshed out? How can people live abundantly in koinonia? I'm not sure there is a method that can be gleaned from this. No institutionalizing of this kind of living faith. But, I will continue to ruminate on it. I will continue to seek Yahweh's desires in this.

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