Wednesday, March 22, 2017

That's not what ships are for.

I was having coffee with a friend recently. She's a server at a restaurant chain specializing in southern hospitality, comfort food, and country-themed tchotchkes. During our conversation she mentioned something that both surprised and angered me: the Sunday-after-church crowd is the absolute worst. They are impatient and demanding, they make a huge mess, and they don't tip well. So, basically the opposite of what you'd expect from folks fresh from worship.

Having never worked in food service, I really don't have much personal experience in this area. But being a lifelong church-goer, I've seen this behavior first hand. Just think about how many folks you've seen trying to run each other over in the parking lot after services are over.

This made me wonder: Are we doing church wrong? If church is supposed to reconnect us with our creator and bind us to one another, how can we then treat people so poorly mere minutes after leaving the sanctuary? It seems to me there's a disconnect about what should happen after we worship.

I'll admit, when I was young church was about socializing or critiquing what my peers were wearing, not about faith formation. But as I've gotten older and matured in my faith, I've realized that I'm looking for much more from worship--I'm looking for transformation. I want to feel moved to tears and then to action. I want the feeling that the Holy Spirit is moving through the pastor's sermon or the praise band's song. And I wouldn't mind feeling a motivation to go home and dig deeper at something I didn't understand or engage my pastor in a deeper conversation. But I don't think many of us are finding this at our churches.

Lent is a great time to work on personal transformation. I find it a quiet, centering time to prepare myself for the joy of Easter. But if you remember what happened after Jesus' resurrection, you know the hard work that comes after: there was fear among the early believers but also a mandate by the Holy Spirit to go forth and share the Good News with all.

Image result for a ship is safe in harbor
I recently came across this quote by William G.T. Shedd: "A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for." I think this sentiment illustrates what Christians are called to be.

Today's Christians like to stay safe inside their churches and communities, but I don't think that's what we were made to do. It's how we act outside that building that matters most--it's what we were made for.

As we work our way through lent, ask yourself: how seaworthy is your ship? Are you stuck in the harbor? Preparing to set sail? Just back to port from an extended journey?
Just remember: you were made for this. And if you happen to go to lunch after church on Sunday, be a nice human.