31 August 2005
I Hear You
God doesn't talk to me that often. Or, I should say, I don't hear him that often. A Presence, yes, that I understand. But I tend to be a bit, erm, cynical when I hear people talking about getting specific instructions from God on a regular basis. Maybe they're just tuned in better. There's a song by Chris Rice that I identify with. It starts out: "I would take 'no' for an answer just to know I heard You speak. And I'm wondering why I never see the signs they claim they see." So there I am.
Sometimes God gets through anyway. Not in a burning-bush way, just coincidences that seem not so coincidental.
See, I rarely feel at home in church. I'm right in line with what basic Lutheran theology I've read and had explained to me. But I tend to be more conservative than the mainstream ELCA (the denomination we were members of in the States) and a bit more--moderate? less fundamentalist? less of a black and white attitude?--than the conservative Lutheran and evangelical denominations. In some cases, I can agree right down the line with conservative theology (and politics, for that matter), and yet feel creeped out by an attitude of absolute certainty. "We've got all the answers. God's on our side." I'm just not sure it's that simple.
But mostly, I long to feel a part of a community of faith. A group of people that are welcoming, authentic with each other, have a sense of mission and purpose for their church, and want to learn more about God and really try to put into practice what they learn. Realistically, no church can live up to my little picture of how things "should" be. But, still...
Anyway, I haven't really felt at home in the church we've been attending here. But it's not like there are a lot of options for English-language churches. We're lucky to have a Lutheran church made up of Americans (a mixture of ELCA and Missouri Synod members, but offically affiliated with Missouri Synod). It's struggling, though. It's small, it's looking for a permanent pastor (their former pastor retired), and it has a challenge unique to the military community: every summer, one-third or more of its members move away to their next assignment. We've already gone the small, struggling church route, and neither of us is eager to do it again.
So last Saturday, Jon and I were talking about this, along with some other things concerning churches. I told Jon that I just want a church where I felt I belonged. I've always wanted that, and rarely if ever found it, but that "longing for belonging" is even stronger now that we're in a new place.
Sunday morning, we went to church. What do you suppose was one of the main points of the sermon? That as Christians, we belong to the family of God. It was like God was saying, "Wake up! Remember that you already belong!" What really got me was that the pastor's choice of words were so similar to what I had been saying the night before.
One can argue for coincidence. But my heart tells me that there's a message there. After church, we were talking to only two elders (that's what they call the governing board of the church) that remain after the latest round of PCS's (permanent change of stations, otherwise known as moving). And I found myself volunteering to work on the church's Web site.
So I guess we're committed. I rarely say things like this, but I think this church is where God wants us.
But I'm not volunteering to be on the council/board of elders. The last time I did that, our pastor resigned within a few months and the church pretty much fell apart. (Uh, not because I was on the council. But why take a chance?)