The sound of the organ trails off into the hollow spaces of the church. The preacher trudges to the pulpit as if he is walking death row. His mind is elsewhere. He is going through the motions. In the front row there is a whistling sound as an older man turns up his hearing aid. He’s not sure it’s worth the effort. A couple entices their young child to sit quietly with crayons and scrap paper. When the child makes a sound, they say in unison, “Hush! We’re in church.” In the row behind them, the CEO of the local bank leafs aimlessly through his hymnal as he wonders what will be left of his branch after the financial storm. Twice in the last month he has contemplated suicide.
A college sophomore, home for the weekend and dragged to church by her parents, sits with her chin in her hands wondering how she will endure the next 30 minutes. A teenage girl runs her hand over her pregnant stomach and gazes at the organ pipes. No one yet knows that she’s full of new life. A middle aged man, who has been waiting for his old-school father to die before coming out about his sexuality, stares blankly at his program then places it under his knee. After settling into the pulpit, the preacher begins shuffling through his notes like a deck of cards. He peers over his bifocals at his sleepy congregation. They look as absent as he feels. He wonders if there’s any point. He inhales, sighs deeply, and begins anyway.
Church is often far removed from the reality of human existence. It is like an out of body experience. You put on your church face; leave your human face at home. You leave your body at home. You leave your humanity in the car. You leave your questions at the door. You leave your deepest desires and fears on the rack with your coat. This is backwards. Church should be a place where you celebrate all of your humanity. Your humanity is God’s child, learning and growing and realizing all your wondrous connections. It is part of the spiritual journey, and not to be minimized. Your humanity is one of the ways that God stays anonymous in the world.
There is a church signboard that reads, “Lying in bed shouting Oh God doesn’t constitute going to church”. It’s intended to guilt people into going to church. I think that’s bass ackwards. If going to church led people to shout “O God, life is such joy. O God humanity is beautiful. O God it’s good to be alive” more often, then you wouldn’t be able to keep people away from church.
Life is amazing, and you have the awesome privilege of participating. Your humanity is not just a good and beautiful thing. It is part of your experience of God, or Spirit, or the Unseen Order or whatever words you use to describe the mysterious beauty that sources your life. Embrace your humanity. Forgive your imperfections. Honor your sexuality. Celebrate your relationships. Appreciate your body. All of your humanity is a gateway to your experience of divine beauty. Dive into life, and offer your unique humanity in service of the Great Love that fills the universe.