Throughout this week, I have been privileged to share time with people who are willing to struggle in order to discern our call in the city. Almost every day this week I have been able to dialogue with people in an effort to discern what our role is with individuals who sleep on the front porch of the church. We have talked about what mercy is and what justice is. We have discussed what it means to offer money and what it means to offer life abundant. We have pondered what it means to offer people a few dollars here and there and what it would mean to literally accompany someone through the immigration process. The conversations have been real, and they have been hard. But, there have been people willing to dialogue and I have seen the church through this dialogue.
As the sun was rising yesterday morning I gathered with two church members for a 7:00 a.m. Bible study. We have been meeting together for several months now, studying the gospel of Mark and using a book by Ched Myers which pushes us to think prophetically - to really engage the text. We spent most of our time together yesterday talking about the changes happening at the church and then opened the pages of scripture. We read less than twenty verses - the verses which tell the story of Blind Bartimaeus being healed. As we read the passage together, I realized that one person was touched in a tangible way. The scripture passage had busted open any false pretenses and what followed was an honest assessment of life - of how hard it is when Jesus does not answer prayer immediately, of how hard it is to lose a loved one, of how hard it is to journey through life. In those moments of vulnerability, I saw the church.
As the day came to a close, my final appointment was with a group of three other women who were eager to plan a four-week Bible study on service during the month of June. We talked about the needs of the congregation. We discerned which biblical texts should be studied. We even had a closing prayer. And then when "amen" was spoken, another prayer request was spoken. One young woman shared a difficult situation happening in the life of a dear friend. It was a sad story filled with tears. I then watched as an older woman in the congregation tangibly consoled this young woman - with words and then with a hand that held on to her in such a way that both knew they could count on each other. In those moments of sharing and holding, I saw the church.
Earlier today, I shared Bible study with the normal Thursday group. Howard is almost 102. Lois is 96. Ruth is around 95. Another participant is in their 90s and the others are a bit younger by a decade or two. The 10:00 hour on Thursday mornings is one of my favorites because I get to spend it with these precious people as we read and ponder the Psalms together. This morning, it was one of our ministry interns' last time to be with the group. Following Bible study, the group took Jessica and me to lunch. There were 8 of us gathered around the table of a restaurant where the owner really does know everyone by name. Towards the end of the lunch, I listened as the group affirmed Jessica. They shared their excitement for her as she prepares to be married in June and then become a pastor of a church in July. They told her how grateful they are for her being with us. They offered the sweetest prayer for her before we ate. They built her up. They named her gifts. They nurtured her from the chapter of seminary to the place of being a pastor. In those moments of hearing one being noticed, named and nurtured, I saw the church.
I have seen the church this week - not in the beautiful building where I am privileged to work - but amongst the incredible people with whom I am privileged to serve, and grow and believe. I cannot imagine going through life without the church. Thank you, God, for allowing me to see the church you have called us to be throughout this week.