I showed up to church. I didn’t want to. Everything in me wanted to stay home in bed. It was one of those seasons where every single thing was working my nerves. That one church member who always insists on hugs during passing of the peace, even though I didn’t want to be touched. The slightly off pitch worship team member, the congregant who uses prayer time to have a conversation, my own kids who don’t always behave. Latecomers, no shows, and close talkers. All of it was conspiring to put me in a mood.
But I showed up anyway. Because I’m a pastor and that’s what I do. Because I’m a preacher’s kid, and I truly wouldn’t know how to play hooky from church if I tried. And because I know that for better or worse, that’s where we have family meetings with Jesus. I can stay home and read the Lectionary passages and prayers. I can meditate on the love of Jesus in my bathrobe drinking coffee at 10 a.m. But I can’t participate in family meetings with Jesus if I don’t show up to church. And I desperately long to remain connected to that family and that Jesus. So I show up anyway.
And it so happens that Jesus meets me there. Four teenagers sitting on futons and beanbags drink in the complexities of the incarnation found in Hebrews during Sunday School. I was so not prepared to teach them that morning, but they were ready to learn. So we learned together that Jesus is what God has to say.
I told my daughter about her baptism, “There will be days that you forget you belong to Jesus. You won’t feel like a child of God all the time. You may feel ashamed of something you’ve done, or you may be lonely, or you may doubt that any of this is true. On those days, I want you to remember that you entered into the waters of baptism and became part of this great big family of God. This certificate that says you were baptized today tells you who you are. You are a child of God, and you have the papers to prove it.”
And as I stood singing songs I sometimes have trouble believing with my whole heart, something in me rose up to claim the promise of salvation again. Rain began to fall on our sanctuary, and I looked around at the family who came to meeting today. We have among us recovering and occasionally relapsing alcoholics, parents whose children have been removed from their homes, military families facing a new station soon, ex spouses determined to parent well together, homeless families making the best of their circumstances, grandparents working hard to pass on a legacy of faith, teenagers who are the only person of faith in their families. We sang together, and I imagine many of them sang the words in defiance like I did, claiming the promises we aren’t always sure we have.
Who speaks to the sea
Who stands in the fire beside me
He bled as the Lamb
He carries my healing in His hands”
My savior, defender, You are my king”