Faith, Public Opinion, and the Cool Kids Table {Thoughts on James 2}

 

When I was in the 6th grade I got made fun of for my clothes. I was smart and shy and I had Wal-Mart brand shoes. Stacy Edwards came back from the bathroom one day and told everyone I was a loud pee-er. To this day, when I use public restrooms, I try to “pee quietly.” Whatever that means.

My 9th grade best friend was a bass violinist named Lori whose family took me to church, and who was a good and faithful friend. Sophomore year, I had 4th period with kids from the popular crowd, who invited me to eat lunch with them. I stopped spending time with Lori and our studious, steady friends, now seeing them as a social liability. I had a shot at acceptance with a group I’d always felt outside of, and I took it.

What if I’d never been made fun of for having the wrong clothes and peeing wrong? What if I’d chosen to stick with friends who were loyal and kind rather than chasing acceptance and popularity (which always stayed just out of reach anyway.) Continue reading

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Small Church {Finding Meaning & Connection on Sundays}

I go to a big church.

And I love it. I love what a large church provides for me: Great teaching. Large and well organized children’s programs, vibrant worship with great production values, a wide variety of people making it easy to find kindred spirits and friends in my life stage.

Church is more than a building or a service, church is people. Community. Connection. And church should be a place where we learn to love those who are different from us, and find connection across life stage and natural affinity. That can be a lot harder to provide than good teaching, organized programs and exciting worship.

My church works hard to create welcoming community and connection (and I’m part of that work and welcoming), but in a bigger church, it is easy to go wide rather than deep.

I have the great privilege to be part of a team that puts on a college worship service a few blocks from our university campus. My involvement in college ministry and this service allows me to have the best of both worlds: I am part of a larger church with amazing resources and strong teaching. And my Sunday experience is close and connected, one I’ve had a voice in creating. I get to go to a big church and also have a small church experience.

College students are headed into finals next week, so this Sunday will be our last College Worship Hour until September. I am very much looking forward to a different schedule, and more family time while the kids are out of school and I work fewer hours. And during the summer, Sundays are truly “weekend”, as opposed to work days.

But I am going to greatly miss our little college worship service.

I will miss having a Sunday experience where I know nearly everyone’s name, can spot newcomers on sight and welcome them, where I can hug and be hugged.

I will miss having a more participatory, discussion oriented teaching time. A smaller group (we have between 100-150 each Sunday) allows us the freedom to include discussion times with those around, as well as large group. Most of us learn less by hearing and more by participating. I am grateful for a small space where there is more than one expert voice teaching about God, where we can learn from the Body of Christ, where a variety of voices discuss truth (with a pastor/teacher to guide us and keep us on track, of course. The discussion happens in the context of a traditional sermon.)

But most of all, I will miss communion. I don’t know at what point protestant churches dropped the Lord’s Supper as a weekly and regular part of their worship. But I wish we could pick it back up again. I wish we could pick it up as a weekly practice, and I wish we could make it communal and connected. Every Evangelical Church I’ve gone to practices communion every 6 weeks or so, and it is very individual. Small cups of juice, tiny cracker, passed around. You take your small portion of Jesus and you serve yourself.

Though it would be next to impossible in a big church, I LOVE the way we practice the Eucharist at College Worship Hour.

It is the centerpiece of our time together, and it is an invitation to come and receive Jesus. We use real bread. We have communion stations and servers. There is an extended time of silence or quiet music to think and pray, and when I am ready, I go to one of several places in the room. I step forward and cup my hands, telling the servers my name. And rather than taking, I receive. Someone (someone I know by name as well) hands me a chunk of bread and says, “Renee, the body of Christ was broken for you.” And then I dip my bread in the cup of juice and hear, “Renee, the blood of Christ was shed for you.”

Every Sunday I receive Christ.

And it is always meaningful, my eyes often pricking with tears. It is meaningful, and it helps me feel connected with Jesus. Some weeks I sit and pray and think for a while before moving toward the nearest communion servers. And some weeks I practically run to receive Jesus as soon as possible.

Maybe anything we do regularly, week after week, looses meaning and becomes routine. Maybe if enough years go by, I won’t feel such a deep hunger to receive Christ in the bread and cup. Maybe I won’t feel a weekly need to “remember Him.” (Luke 22:19)

But I don’t think so.

And though I love you, still we’re strangers
Prisoners in these lonely hearts
And though our blindness separates us
Still His light shines in the dark
And His outstretched arms are still strong enough to reach
Behind these prison bars to set us free
So may peace rain down from Heaven
Like little pieces of the sky
Little keepers of the promise
Falling on these souls the drought has dried
In His Blood and in His Body
In this Bread and in this Wine
Peace to you
Peace of Christ to you

“Peace”, Rich Mullins

What helps you find meaning and connection at church?

SmallChurch (1)