CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter… ©
I go to church. I don’t have to. I’m retired. They can’t take my pension away if I don’t go to church. I don’t owe the church anything; it’s a small pension, and I earned every shekel of it.
More than half of the retired clergy I know don’t go to church, and many of those who do attend at a church of a different denomination, usually a more liturgical church, to escape praise bands, since we are old and stodgy.
But I still go, primarily to experience the spiritual presence of God, and because there are people there who are nice to me, and to help patch the roof.
A clergy friend of mine was impressed by a young woman who started attending his church. She was so excited. She loved everything about it. The music was great. The people were so welcoming. They ate all the time. Sometimes they even had pancakes. What’s not to like? She thought it was great. She felt the presence of God and the affirmation of other church members.
So he invited her to be a member of the board. The first board meeting she looked perplexed. The second one, she exploded. “I thought this was a church,” she yelled. “I thought this would be a spiritual experience. But all you do is talk about patching the roof.”
First, of course, my friend should have known better. Board meetings should be done in a secret room in the lower basement. Only those who have lost all hope, but not all caffeine, should be allowed in. Preferably vice-presidents who have recently realized they will never make president. Such people think that arguing about patching the roof IS a spiritual experience. Putting a newbie into that setting is, in more enlightened countries, a crime, punishable by having to watch endlessly looped videos of presidential candidate speeches, with the sound turned way up.
You don’t have to go to church to experience the presence of God, especially the mystical presence of God. I am sympathetic to folks who say you get that best in nature or from music or some other out-of-church experience. I have such mystical experiences myself.
There is a spiritual presence of God, though, that is not necessarily mystical. It comes through people who help you to be your best self. As Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
I go to church because there are people there [not everyone, but most] who love me as I am, but don’t let me get away with thinking I am better than I am. They encourage me to be a better person. There are a whole lot of places and groups in this world that encourage me to be a worser person.
I feel sorry for my retired clergy friends who don’t go to church. They lost their way, I think, because they spent too much time with the vice-presidents in the lower basement, and thus forgot how much fun it is to be with people who encourage you to be better.
Okay, so I sort of lied when I said I go to church to help patch the roof. I know the damn thing has to be patched, but I’m too weak and weary to go back down to that lower basement. So I help pay for the patching, and I stand at the foot of the ladder and yell, “Don’t look down.”
That’s being Christian isn’t it, sort of?
See you in church, but not in that secret room in the lower basement. There are worse things than a leaky roof.
I tweet as yooper1721.
My book, NOW THAT I HAVE CANCER I AM WHOLE: Reflections on Life and Healing for Cancer Patients and Those Who Love Them, is published in two editions by AndrewsMcMeel, in audio by HarperAudio, and in Czech and Japanese translations. It’s incredibly inexpensive at many sites on the web.