New Favorite Book: Leaving Church
My Lenten discipline has been to read more; I'm trying to read a book a week. (This week I'll greatly surpass that, preparing for the seminary course I'm teaching, but those aren't books that are normally found in my "I wish I had time to read these" pile.)
I recently finished reading "Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith" by Barbara Brown Taylor. Now, this woman can write or speak anything and it's worth listening to/reading. I AM NOT CONTEMPLATING LEAVING THE CHURCH, so don't panic. The book was recommended to me by several friends who are on leave or retiring, so I read it. And it's great. It may not have a strong hook for people who are not steeped in the church, or church work, or "get" what it means to pastor, but for us who do it's a great read.
Here's a quote:
"Most of us do not live holy lives, after all. We spend most of our time sitting in traffic, paying bills, and being irritated with one another. Yet every week we are invited to stop all of that for one hour at least. We are invited to participate in a great drama that has been going on without us for thousands of years, and one that will go on as long as there is a single player left standing." (p. 161)
I'm teaching a course for Theological Education for Emerging Ministries at LSPS this semester, a course on what it means to be the church, so this quote jumped out at me. As much as the church tries to be "counter-cultural" and "culturally relevant" at the same time, here's a reminder that when we gather on Sunday we GET to be abnormal for awhile, to leave normal at the door and just bask in being people of God. It's one hour of Sabbath in a world that doesn't allow us our full day, usually.
I find this to be true even as the worship leader, the one responsible for "everything" (and I'm REALLY good at taking that responsibility!). There are many things I do in the course of the week, all for the sake of the gospel, in my intention, at least. Some are more, some less, glamorous or meaningful. But in worship even I am someone different than I am the rest of the week. I do worship when I lead worship; I join my prayers with those of the congregation, I take my place at the table; I remember my baptism, I sing my heart out. For one hour life becomes a holy thing in a way that I know it's true. For one hour I remember that it doesn't really depend on me, theologically or practically. For one hour I take all the attention from God that I can get, and don't feel selfish or undeserving about it. Honestly, one hour can't possibly be enough; but mysteriously, it is.
Read the book; it would be better than reading my quotes from it. But I'll leave you with my favorite line:
"Salvation happens every time someone with a key uses it to open a door he could lock instead." (p. 115)