This past Sunday was our celebration of graduating high school seniors at church. We are graduating our third child on Thursday and about to have an empty nest. We have had a child in our home non-stop for 29 years, so yes, an empty nest is going to be fun/strange/sad/happy/quiet; so many things to feel. Seriously. Imagine all of those feelings at once wrapped up in this graduation week.
On Sunday three of the graduates spoke in the worship services, including our son. As they spoke, they taught me about the power of the community of faith. All three had been members of that particular church most of their lives.
Here’s what they said, summarized:
-They were grateful and could now see the many people who helped raise them and show them faith. For all, it was a long list beyond their parents.
-It wasn’t any one thing, it was all the things. It was cookies and snacks; the many Sunday School lessons and Bible studies. It was singing in the children’s choir and serving as acolytes in worship. It was Vacation Bible School and Mission trips. It was pastors preaching, people loving them and speaking to them, hugging them and recognizing their milestones. It wasn’t any one thing, it was this tapestry woven together by the community of faith with them and around them.
-They saw the church for what it is, imperfect, ever-changing, filled with real-life loss and challenges. They all had families that hung in there despite the messy imperfection of the whole thing. They had families that made them attend when they didn’t want to. They had families that invested, served, modeled faith.
-They noticed that the more you invested in the community the more you received.
At the end of this happy/sad/milestone morning, I wanted to grab the microphone and preach or at least give a mom’s rebuttal but it didn’t seem polite.
I wanted to say to every single person, child, tween, teen, young adult and older adult…”Can’t you see this happening before our eyes? This is an illustration of the God-infused super sloppy church. Where it is never one thing, it is all the things…embedded with prayer, worship, life, death, sickness, ritual, grace and forgiveness.”
I wanted to say to everyone. “No matter how old you are, join up. Attach yourself to a community of faith and do not let go. Don’t let conflict or imperfection or that piece of music, or preaching or person you don’t like sitting next to you stop you. Invest. Show up. Show up again and again and again. You may not see results for 19 or 190 years. Show up anyway.
Sunday I sat in the pew and saw it. It was a real-life, people-I-love example of the power of the community of faith to shape lives. 19 years ago, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy and we inserted him right in the middle of an imperfect community of faith from the time he was 2 weeks old and the pediatrician said he could go to the church nursery.
On Sunday, a confidant young man walked to the pulpit in that same church and shared his faith, his values, his future plans and his gratitude for the cloud of witnesses who loved him into that.
Everyone deserves to be loved and shaped like that. Everyone.