Friday, November 5, 2010
We need bigger tables!
I have been spending a lot of time at the table lately, dining and drinking coffee with friends I am meeting along the way. It has only reinforced the idea that good food and conversation are the perfect way to form new friendships (no comments needed from those friends who are always harassing me about how strenuous this new work must be for me!). I am finding that given the opportunity, we are all longing to engage in meaningful relationships and to find a place where we experience genuine acceptance.
Yesterday, I met a woman for breakfast who shared her altered perception of God with me. We had never met, but spent a couple of hours exchanging life stories. Although she grew up in a fairly conservative religious tradition, her life's experiences had taught her that God could not possibly be confined to the limited view that was so often expressed through those in her church. While many describe themselves as spiritual, but not religious, she claimed that she was neither at this point in her journey. Then she made this powerful statement:
"I do imagine [however] that there is a Being that holds the world together and keeps us all from killing one another."
When I consider what it means to re-imagine the church, I suppose what it really means is "re-imagining God". For so long, we have allowed God to remain confined to the patriarchal imagery expressed in scripture as "Father", "King", and "Lord". While these images do convey attributes of God that are timeless, they are also limited to the ancient context in which they were first used by God's people. In other words, when we refer to God as "King" today, does that truly communicate and confess our faith in God? or by focusing too much on how people have experienced God in the past prevented us from honoring how God continues to be revealed to us today?
I think that what this new friend of mine was saying is that 'my life experiences have led me to imagine God differently and I no longer find that I fit into the church'. I can't help but wonder just how beautiful a community of faith would be if we held up not only scripture and tradition, but human experience as a valid way of talking about, worshiping and serving God. As I re-imagine the church as an inclusive community that follows Christ in seeking to love God and love neighbor, I pray that it will truly be a place where we can bring all of who we are to the table...a place where we can talk about God in ways that reflect not only an ancient perspective, but in new ways that express how we see God working in our world today.
I could not agree with this woman more - surely there is One who holds it all together!
May the One who created us all be more fully made known as we each find our place at the table!