Friday, October 2, 2015

Pilgrims on the Way of Jesus

Pondering the faith
In the contemporary era of the Church, we often wonder why congregations are struggling to make it. Diana Butler Bass, a leading expert on mainline church renewal, notes some wise words from a pastor of a Lutheran church that is going through a process of renewal:

It’s not rocket science. You preach the gospel, offer hospitality, and pay attention to worship and people’s spiritual lives. Frankly, you take Christianity seriously as a way of life.

 From her spiritual memoir Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott tells of taking her son Sam, then an elementary age child, each week to church, even though Sam does not want to go. Lamott writes, “The main reason is that I want to give him what I found in the world, which is to say a path and a little light to see by.”

Lamott recounts those she knows in her Presbyterian congregation as well as persons of other religious persuasions as good examples as why the journey is worth it. She writes, “They follow a brighter light than the glimmer of their own candle; they are part of something beautiful.” (Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, 100).

Lamott credits her Presbyterian congregation for helping her become more grounded in life. They took care of her in a variety of ways, supporting her when she became a single mom. This congregation was on a pilgrimage of sorts.

Our funky church is filled with people who are working for peace and freedom, who are out there on the streets and inside praying, and they are home writing letters, and they are at the shelter with giant platters of food. When I was at the end of my rope, the people at St. Andrew tied a knot in it for me and helped me hold on. (ibid.)

How is your congregation a place for pilgrims to gather, those who seek out God’s goodness through living the faith in deepening (and yes, even differing) ways? Oftentimes, the temptation has been to worry about why the pews are half-empty.  All too often, budgets and buildings can overshadow the gospel's simplicity and any sense of your fellowship as a place for "spiritual grounding".

When we embrace faith's practices of hospitality, worship and spiritual care,  we can be a place where God is found, whether we seem a bit withdrawn from the world or right in the thick of things. And others will see us as God wishes us to be: pilgrims on a journey.

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