Easter Is Calling Me Back To Church

evangelism-challenge

(Carson Weitnauer) #1

Hi friends,

As we prepare for Easter during Holy Week, I found this personal reflection in The New York Times to be of interest:

Some quotes:
At the start of the piece:

I went to church on Easter Sunday last year, and never went back. It wasn’t a boycott, exactly. It was an inability, week after week, to face the other believers…

At the end of the piece:

The year away from church hasn’t made me miss the place itself. I don’t miss the stained glass. I don’t miss the gleaming chalice or the glowing candles or the sweeping vestments. But I do miss being part of a congregation. I miss standing side by side with other people, our eyes gazing in the same direction, our voices murmuring the same prayers in a fallen world. I miss the wiggling babies grinning at me over their parents’ shoulders. I miss reaching for a stranger to offer the handshake of peace. I miss the singing.

Some other points:

In this house, we have never been Christmas-and-Easter-only Christians. My husband and I grew up in the church and raised our children there. Even during the hardest years, when mobilizing three young sons and various configurations of elderly parents felt like running the Iditarod every Sunday morning — even then, we didn’t miss Mass.

During college and graduate school, I tried to talk myself out of believing in God. The reasons not to believe were multifarious and convincing. The reasons to believe came down to only one: I couldn’t not believe. I seem to have been born with a constant ache for the sacred, a deep-rooted need to offer thanks, to ask for help, to sing out in fathomless praise to something. In time I found my way back to God, the most familiar and fundamental something I knew, even if by then my conception of the divine had enlarged beyond any church’s ability to define or contain it.

In the past year, while my husband and his father were at church on Sunday mornings, I was in the woods, where God has always seemed more palpably present to me anyway. (And not just to me: “Some keep the Sabbath going to Church,” Emily Dickinson wrote back in the 19th century. “I keep it, staying at Home.”) For me, a church can’t summon half the awe and gratitude inspired by a full-throated forest in all its indifferent splendor.

Some questions…

  1. Who do you know who would say, “Easter is calling me back to church”?
  2. If Margaret Renkel was a friend, what questions might you ask her?
  3. If you met her at your church this Sunday, what might you do or say to make her feel welcome in your congregation?

(Omar Rushlive Lozada Arellano) #2

@CarsonWeitnauer This is not something that is easy to answer. It seems to me that Margaret is emotionally invested in her political beliefs. This is not wrong per se, since people can be passionate about their beliefs, but it goes wrong in a sense that it makes us label those who differ automatically as an enemy. It seems to me that this is evident due to how she felt for her fellow parishioners when she realized that they voted for Donald Trump.

Here are some answers to some questions:

  1. I’m not sure actually if he fits this category. I only heard about him from my other friends, and was not able to check for myself. I’m thinking of a churchmate before who I’ve heard was no longer going to church as often. I’m not sure if he feels the same way towards the church. He seems enamored with volumes of left-wing writings when we last talked. One time I’ve heard that he discontinued a seminar he was attending since he thinks that what was being taught about missions was “western.”

  2. I’ll do my best to establish things where we could both agree on. It seems to me that if I immediately tell her about my political views, I might turn her off, which will immediately shut the conversation down. Since she’s a person who can’t run away from the sacred, since we have what we could call a sensus divinitatis as Calvin would say, I would capitalize on that longing. Since she does not like Trump, she verbalizes that she does not like people who exploits others, racists, sexists, ableists, and intolerant people.

I would fight with her on that. But it seems to me that she does not understand what she is fighting for completely. An example is that she said, “What kind of faith community denies a sacrament to parishioners who don’t happen to have been born heterosexual?”

She views race as sacred, but sex is something she is willing to profane. She values tolerance, in showing hatred for people who incites violence to those who disagree with them, but she can’t tolerate parishioners who disagree with her political views. She sees the value of women that they ought to be respected, and also the value of disabled people. It seems that she may want a sexual enabler to win.

I would not say this to her outright if I know her. I would capitalize and build up on things we could agree on, which is the basic principles she had laid for not liking Trump. I’ll share about what God’s Word says about it, and ask her questions based on those principles. This may help her in the direction of being more open or at least consider why other parishioners differ with her without demonizing them outright.

  1. If she’s a friend at our church, then she suddenly shows up, I’ll tell her that we had not seen her for a long time. I would ask her if she has time to spend with us, like maybe we could catch up and talk. If there’s an opportunity to serve her, I would take that as well to show my love for her, and maybe pray for her concerns too.

(Omar Rushlive Lozada Arellano) #3

I forgot to put this up as well in number 2. I suddenly thought about it when I remembered about an article I’ve read about Sola Fide as being political. Aside from biblical principles we could agree on, I could capitalize on our common faith to make sure that we would be united in love. If we’re on the same church and we happen to have different political views, I would make sure that the gospel will always be there, so that we could be reminded of one faith we have, our one Lord who saved us from our sins. This reminder I believe will help us love and tolerate one another. :slight_smile:


(Jennifer Judson) #4

This is unusually to be quoting myself, but below is a response of mine from another post.

I’ve shared this before, but my greatest Bible teacher said it takes two things in a person’s life to bring them to a decision for Christ. First, the recognition that they need a savior. Second, that that savior is Jesus. It requires both of those things. There are people who know they need a savior, but look for it in other people, drugs, lifestyle, exercise, etc. There are also people who know Jesus is the savior–they just never recognize that they need a savior. Many sit in pews every Sunday of their lives never seeing that critical application in their own life, worshipping a distant God rather than knowing a personal savior.

It seems relevant here as I am wondering if Margaret Renkel is one who having attended church all her life knows “who” the savior is, but has not/does not understand that she personally needs a savior. She finds she just must believe in God and so continues to attend. She recognizes the foibles of a human institution, especially it seems when it is at odds with her political beliefs. She goes, but holds back–worshiping not in a spirit of love, but a disapproving spirit of judgement.

Here is her concluding paragraph.

So I will be at Mass again on Easter morning, as I have been on almost every Easter morning of my life. I will wear white and remember the ones I loved who sat beside me in the pew and whose participation in the eternal has found another form, whatever it turns out to be. I will lift my voice in song and give thanks for my life. I will pray for my church and my country, especially the people my church and my country are failing. And then I will walk into the world and do my best to practice resurrection.

She has found many things of value at church, yet I wonder if she has ever found Jesus. So I think after getting to know her I might ask if she knows she needs a savior and has she ever really met Jesus. Not the institution, but the man. What might change if she attended to worship her savior–not the institution and all it’s traditions? Would the liturgies have a different meaning? Would communion fill her with greater blessing?

I wonder if every Christian crisis of faith is because we have lost sight of (or never actually seen) the person of Jesus. And when I say that I mean the person of Jesus within the fullness of the Trinity. We may be wounded by the church or other Christians, we may be at odds with a changing world, or just lost in life’s disappointments, and we fault the church and the whole premise of Christianity instead of seeking the one for who it was named…Jesus.