Monday, April 5, 2010

Missing Easter

I grew up in an Episcopal household.  "Catholic Lite" if, you will.  We went to church every Sunday religiously (if you'll excuse the pun).  I literally missed maybe 5 Sunday services during the first 19 years of my life.  I like going to church.  I like the familiarity of the service, the comfort of reciting the same prayers with 200 other people (or 22 other people if you go to  parent's church), the hymns that were the soundtrack for my childhood.

Sometime after college (not DURING college, mind you, I attended church regularly throughout my college years) I decided that the Church (the Christian Church in general, nothing specifically about Episcopalianism) was somewhat narrow in its definition of God and salvation.  I began to believe that while Jesus was indeed the Son of God, He came to show us what we had the potential to be.  If we could recognize and tap into our on connection to the Divine in the same way that He had/has/does that we too could be Sons and Daughters of God.  I stopped believing in a God that would send people to hell for not believing or doing the "right" thing.  I mean, do you care what games your children play when they go outside to play?  Does it matter in the least whether they play hide and seek or tag?  So why does it matter to God what His children believe about Him?  Our belief (or disbelief) does nothing to change the truth one way or another. 

Not that I am saying God doesn't care.  I believe we are loved beyond measure by All That Is, The Source, God, Light, Love, The Great Whatever.   But how can we POSSIBLY injure or offend All That Is?  Wouldn't that be God being offended by a part of Himself?  And if God knows all, controls all, sees all and ultimately IS all, how can we do anything that is outside His plan?  How can we BE anything outside His love?  I am sure that there are many people out there with many answers for me in regards to these questions.  But I have thought, and searched, and studied and the answers you would offer do not make sense to me.  God loves perfectly, God is perfect love.  How then can anything - anything AT ALL -  be outside His love?  I also think the Christian Church tends toward intolerance and hatred of those that are different from them (I understand this is a gross simplification and a blanket statement that doesn't apply to all branches of the church).  Jesus was a consumate liberal - associating with tax collectors and prostitutes, feeding the poor, healing the lepers, etc.  I can't stand people who use Jesus as a justification for discrimination.  Jesus didn't hate.  We shouldn't hate.  I try to live my life by His example.  I love my neighbor.  I treat people the way I want to be treated.  I help the less fortunate to the best of my ability.  I pray to be better today than I was yesterday and to share the love I have with those around me.  I am thankful for my blessings.

Let me be clear - I don't believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible.  It has passed through too many human hands to be the direct and perfect Word of God.  I don't even necessarily believe in the literal resurrection of Jesus.  I believe SOMETHING happened that day - something very powerful and world-changing.  Otherwise, we certainly wouldn't have Christianity at all.  But I am not sure it was a physical resurrection.  I do believe God sends us messengers from time to time, messengers with powerful, world-changing teachings (and that we as a species tend to kill them).  I do believe that Jesus came to show us the way to everlasting life. 

So anyway, theological debates aside, I love going to church on Easter Sunday.  I woke up yesterday morning and got Lucy dressed in her cute little Easter dress.  I got dressed up.  Then I thought "Now what?".  So I went to the computer and I discovered an Episcopal Church less than 2 miles from my house with Easter services at 10:30.  I loaded Lucy in the car (it was now 10:40) and drove to church.  It was PACKED!  I mean just jammed full of people.  We were squeezed into the back row of the pews reserved for the choir.  I loved this church right off.  There were so many different ethnicities.  There were the old white ladies of my childhood church experience in their white gloves and tailored suits. There were African families with the men in sober suits and women in bright dresses and outrageously festive hats.  There were hispanics and asians and everyone in between.  A beautiful global tapestry, immediately apprarent.  The churches I have attened in the past have been rather uniform in terms of race, so this was a breath of fresh air.  The choir was FANTASTIC.  I am thinking of joining the church just to sing in the choir. 

Regardless of my particular reservations about organized religion, it was so nice to sit among strangers and feel accepted, part of a community.  THIS is what I miss about being a member of a church.  Community.  People cooed at Lucy, smiled at me, shook my hand, shared their hymnals with me.  It was, in a word, nice.  We said the familiar words, sang the familiar songs, recited the familiar prayers, took Communion.  The choir brought me to tears with their music.  I felt my heart lift with joy when we sang together "and I will raise them up, and I will raise them up, and I will raise them up on the last day", with hands raised in celebration.  I felt a swell of love and gratitude when the priest placed his hand on Lucy at communion and said "My the Lord bless you and keep you always".  This is the bright, beautiful side of religion that I love.  So for today, I could forget my reservations and sing a glad song. 

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