If it hadn't been for my father, I would not have returned to church.
This is a fact. It was my dad's death which brought me back into the Episocpal Church after an extended absence.
As I sat in church this morning listening to the sermon, my mind wandered back to the fall 2007. My father died on October 5, and we held two funerals: one in New Hampshire with the burial and another service at St. John's on All Saint's Day. It was the most time I had spent in church in about 15 years. And I didn't expect to spend another minute more in a pew.
And so here I am today: in the pew every Sunday. When not in the pew, I'm serving as part of the altar party as a Eucharistic Minister. I co-mentor an Education for Ministry group, and am ready to complete the course this year. And this morning, I was addressing the congregation of St. John's about our new Circle of Hope ministry to assist with those who are unemployed and underemployed to find their way out of the morass of despair to a place of hope and a new job.
Not only am I back in church, I feel like I spend half my life in the church.
My active participation is an outgrowth of that moment back in November 2007 when I wondered whether I should go back to St. John's. The funerals were over, so there didn't seem any reason for me to be there. But I couldn't shake the feeling, or the incessant round of hymns in my head, that made me feel compelled to be there. I wrestled with the question for a few days until that Sunday morning when a voice in my head boomed, "Show up!"
The sound of that command was very similar to the way my father would put his proverbial foot down with us kids when we got too loud and rambunctious. And while the voice I heard was not my father's voice, it was inescapable dad-like order to quit arguing and just do as I was told.
I wonder if this is what might have happened with those who were called to follow Christ. Ordinary guys, and the sisters Mary and Martha, are going about their every day tasks when they dropped what they were doing to be a disciple of Christ's because they were ordered to "Show up!"
To show up, in my experience, is not merely to come to church and sit in the pew and allow someone else to do the thinking for you. When I responded to the call to "show up", I found myself listening deeply and learning the story of what it means to be part of the Christian version of God's people. And I discovered in the listening that the story of Christ is one that was highly liberating and freeing. I felt myself connecting with what my ancestors, and understanding that many of the themes that still exist in today's world... pride, greed, guilt... have always been with us, but they do not have to rule our lives if we allow love to be our center point. My understanding went deeper still when I understood that to tap into that root of Love in my own being meant that I was empowered to act on that love. And through my actions out of Love, I am presenting the face of God to others in a way that is non-threatening, non-judgmental, and quietly Christian in that Episcopalian way. Episcopalians, at least the ones I've known, are not street preaching evangelizers. But we can be people who open the way to a faith that stimulates the brain and encourages the heart to stay strong.
My sense as I survey the past 3-1/2 years is that God has been acting in the Fatherly way with me, teaching me and shaping me and molding me the way a parent would. Interesting that it was the death of my earthly father that forced me to become acquainted with my heavenly Father.