On Sunday, I sat in the pew at Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in San Carlos. As we entered the Eucharistic prayer, familiar words swirled around me: “This is my body.” “This is my blood.” “Do this in remembrance of me.” I leaned into the ritual with my heart and my mind and my soul… resting in the familiar but still breathtakingly taken by the story. The story of God loving me, of God wanting to become human and spend time with us, to be among us, and to experience frailty and fear and love and joy with us.
For the last six or seven months, I’ve been serving as a deacon in liturgical services sporadically, as needed, moving from one parish to another. And on the Sundays that I had nowhere else to be, I show up and sit in the pews to sing, pray and reflect as part of our community. It feeds me and it’s a gift. It makes me wonder why going to church puts me in a minority. Why aren’t others drawn to these sacred gifts? Why don’t they want this experience? I also wondered about myself about what keeps me coming back. I did some back of the envelope math–eight years of parochial school, weekly attendance (or near weekly) during my teen and young adult years–and then ordination at 32. From there, Eucharist three time a week minimum, and more often during high holy days and retreats. I’ve probably followed this story of a meal shared with friends about 3,000. Why aren’t I bored?
My two daughters, when they were little, liked hearing the same stories over and over again. I must have read Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type at least a thousand times. Do you know it? The cows start writing the farmer notes about what they want, advocating for themselves. Then they go on strike. It’s a story, really, about social justice–about people asking for what they need and the community recognizing the worth of each contributor. Plus, let’s face it, cows typing is funny.
Then there was The Babies of Cockle Bay, where Lilly the babysitter comes to the rescue when pirates kidnap the babies of Cockle Bay. This one is about realizing that just because people look scary, doesn’t mean that they aren’t people too and it doesn’t mean that they are incapable of love and care for other. I read that a thousand times too.
Kids like hearing stories over and over again because it’s comforting to know that the story doesn’t change–that they can count on things falling into place. We write stories for kids hoping to pass on truth and shared community values–and we are willing to keep reading the stories over and over again in hopes that the truth will become part of who our children are, like a heartbeat or a pulse in the very depth of their being.
I don’t think the Eucharist is much different in some fundamental way. It’s comforting to hear that we are loved and that God is with us. It’s also empowering–we have an example to follow and a shared understanding. God loves everybody and all of creation. God shows up. God feeds us. We can do nothing less. Sometimes we need to accept help and sometime we must give help, but it’s all part of the holy economy of love that is the heartbeat of a healthy world. If we lived into it radically and logically it would mean that no one would have less than they need, and no one would want to keep more than they need…but that’s another blog post. What i’m getting at is this: God wrote this story for us–to comfort and to teach. Sitting in a holy space (the church) and listening again and again to the ways that we are loved is a gift and a privilege.
The other thing I remember about my kids is that they always wanted to share their favorite stories with their friends. That’s a good reminder. You, my friend, are invited any Sunday to come and listen to my very favorite story… show up at an Episcopal Church and you will be welcomed. Sit and listen to the wonderful story, whether you’ve heard it once or a hundred times. You are loved. You are not alone. This story is meant for you too.