I was at my “old” church today. The traditional Lutheran one that I married into and attended for 24 years, alongside my lifelong Lutheran raised husband and children. I go back under the ruse of still being involved with the music ministry there (today, singing in the Praise Band to lead the contemporary worship), and it’s quite true – I love to sing, harmonize and connect with a congregation in song. But I could easily do this in my new church as well. I know it’s family that brings me back as well. Surely, my immediate family that still attend, but I can’t leave behind the people and faces and hearts that have touched me on a spiritual level over the years. There’s true friendships there that I can’t leave without turning back.
Yet, it’s been in my last handful of times returning that I’ve actually enjoyed listening to the sermons. Because, heaven’s above and right here below…..I can hear them so differently now! I don’t know that I’ll ever go back regularly to a traditional Christian church, but I find such new meaning in the words I hear there when I venture inside now. Within the words and the fleshing out by the pastor, I can read between the lines.
I no longer sit and agree or disagree, analyzing why that sentence or another doesn’t fit my picture of faith or theology. I can listen, tossing what doesn’t fit for me, and seeing what does in a completely different light.
Case in point today: the sermon being about the verses in the Gospel in which Jesus is crucified. The mocking of, “If you are King of the Jews, then save yourself!” Our pastor reflecting on the possibility that THIS King, this might be a King that we can follow because he is NOT the typical King, Lord and Master. As surely, that is not the American ideal. We do not want anyone lording over us, we do not want to be controlled, do not want to obey. But surely, it was in Jesus’ death on the cross, in being willing to sacrifice himself to show us that he is willing to endure unimaginable pain, even death, for us that help us to see him as something different.
Even though I no longer believe in Jesus’ death on a cross for the literal saving of all of mankind for centuries to come, I was overcome in my understanding this morning of how his actions can be salvation for us today.
I am a crier. I hate it. HATE IT! At the most surprising moments, tears will appear. I leak! I often feel proud if I can keep them at bay – especially during an especially touching movie, or if another sheds tears in front of me. I’d like to show that I’m in control of my emotions and not some weak tit.
Ha. But lately, I’ve begun to notice how much tears are appreciated by others. We really do like to see people who allow a tear to show, who brave their emotion to share what’s in their heart. We certainly don’t want to BE that person, but we love it when others can. It brings us to a different level. A level deeper than the world out there. The one of being tough. Strong. Ms. Cool.
So as much as I’ve hated them, I’ve begun to value my leaking. It pains me when it happens, but I am acutely aware how it brings the group in close. Like a whisper. As if to say, ohhhhh. We’re going there now. Listen up. Pay attention. It breaks people open, that willingness to show your emotion or pain. It allows them to share on the same level.
In light of the service this morning, I could see that vulnerability as being Christ-like. When one is willing to bear that pain and vulnerability openly with one another, it is as if we are hanging our worldly selves on the cross and letting the tears and powerlessness show. Even Christ’s body posture on the cross…. it is a vulnerable position for us today. Arms stretched wide, allowing the tenderness of our bodies be open to harm. Just as we, today, do not value jumping in line behind a powerful Lord, our strength and “coolness” does nothing to help us connect with one another. Yet, if we are more Christ-like, activating the God Within, and show that vulnerability…….. we open each other to the Christ Within all of us.
It is those tears, the vulnerability, the willingness to bear our pain openly for another that is our salvation today. It breaks us open. It brings us to that deeper level. To that level that is NOT of this world – it is one in which we recognize our frailties, our humaness, our need for something BIGGER. And a recognition of Oneness in one another. And an incredible love that connects us all. In that way, yes, Jesus can be a savior to me. And I thank Pastor Amy for the enlightening sermon!