I have the great blessing this morning to waking on a Sunday when, I just get to go to church — you know, like one of the congregation. I love participating in the worship as one of the leaders; I love singing in the choir; but sometimes I just like to sit in the congregation and worship.
And today, for me, is a day of memory. I used to belong to a church that had at its helm an 85-year-old ministerial spitfire named Amalie Frank. Amalie taught me many things, both positive and negative (the strength that she showed in her faith could sometimes come out as as a controlling spirit and judgementalism in personal matters), and most of all she showed me that number of years you have logged on this planet don’t matter when you are deciding which new challenge to tackle (she was only ordained at age 65), and she showed me how one can live and love and pass from this world with grace.
I tend to think of Amalie a lot on this day, because, well, Amalie was EXTREMELY patriotic (one might say gingoistic, but I’ll stick with patriotic as this is a remembrance). We did, after all, have a liturgy which opened every Sunday with the congregational singing of God Bless America (followed by Amalie’s own poem, God Bless this World of Ours). On this day, we would most likely follow that music up with choral renditions of music by George M. Cohan, or This Land is My Land, or some other patriotic tune. The day would end with an all church picnic at a local park on Capitol Hill. Amalie loved Independence Day, and therefore, we celebrated.
But today, when I head off to worship, I’m absolutely positive that the service will not start with the song made famous by Kate Smith; and I know that we will be focusing more on the acts of communion and community than on flag-waving; and for this I give the greatest, deepest gratitude that I have to offer.
You see, over the past few weeks, I have finally come to realize why my former “new age” faith stopped working, and why it had to be replaced by, well, stepping forward and declaring myself to be a follower of the way of Jesus Christ.
I realized that my comfortable “new age” interpretation of faith and spirit was, well, all about me. And I knew that that simply could not be what life was all about.
And so, now I will put on my shoes and head out to the Calvary Baptist Church, where I am a humble member. I am humbled by the continued challenge to step outside myself and into the world; I am humbled by everything that we do and say that is there to lead us into the radical call that is the message of Jesus Christ; I am humbled by the love and acceptance and diversity and openess that I find there — all things that exist despite our humanity and our failures and our grumbling and our uncertaintainty. I am humbled that we will all still try, and we will all believe, and we will not listen to those who complain about us. I am humbled to be part of a community where it is okay to live in the questions, knowing that NO human being can ever have the answers.
And I say, happy Independence Day, for their is no greater freedom than that obtained in listening to the call of God instead of to the call of man. Have a great listening day.