By the time this is published, I will be halfway through another trip to Israel/Palestine. Three years ago when I went with the Pilgrims of Ibillin, I confess the many layers of history, faith, theology and geography mixed together and overwhelmed me. I’m sure this happens on many trips we all take. We have an idea of the area, we’ve read and dreamed about the place, and then we get there and we realize it takes more than one trip to soak even part of the journey into our being. Many people feel that way about Disneyland or even like our recent trip to Charleston, SC, you can read, prepare, get your route all plugged into your phone to avoid lines, and then when your foot hits Main Street, everything from sounds, food, and lights floods your senses.
This process happens in education, travel, mission, family, and worship. (I know, it’s called life and I’m sure there are plenty of other areas to note.) We can be prepared, but when we show up, reality begins. The Boy Scout motto is “be prepared”. The Greek maxim is “know thyself”. We say that life is “90% showing up”. And there is truth and wisdom in all of these. Yet, Christian worship (and theology) asks us to come as we are into the presence of God. We are told that God’s knowledge is beyond our thoughts and we are special that God cares for us. We are asked, were we there when the earth was formed? We risk the tension of the incarnation and the resurrection, but in all of this, we are invited to come. There in worship, as we gather, sing, pray, listen, and respond to the word, we may be disoriented or experience a dislocation from our vision of God and the way we live.
Yes, we are blessed with a great music program, space, and windows. We have a great community to be with, yet there are times when we are not prepared, we do not know ourselves well enough, and that percentage of showing up allows God to touch our hearts in new ways. Maybe we learn to forgive a long hurt. Maybe we hear an anthem and it reminds us of God’s amazing love. Maybe we read scripture or in our prayer, the Holy Spirit shows us something new to ponder. When we put our faith and lives into a time of worship, we never know how our senses will be engaged and how we may be invited to follow Jesus. Each time is different and all of us support each other, are present for each other, and are vital to the life of our congregation.
This time as I get ready for my trip, as I meet with others, as I reflect on what I experienced last time and what I’d like to get out of the trip this time, I am grateful for an opportunity to step back. Things will be new and jarring just like last time, but like any one who has traveled back to a place, this time I hope for moments of quiet and perspective different from last time. I will still marvel at the landscape, the politics, the stories, and the history, but rather than walk as fast as I can to see the next thing, I plan to stop along the way. Hear something new. See a new place. Attempt to process what I’ve learned these past three years and reflect on the present.
Like our times in worship, each time we attend, we have an opportunity to see, hear, and experience something new. We take the familiar and relax enough to seek the new. I look forward to sharing what I learned and listening to what our other friends learned on this trip. I also look forward to seeing how God continues to grow, change, and shape us in our community as well.
To our friends and family here at the First Presbyterian Church of Everett,
We want to thank you all for your amazing support, grace, and love, as we were married in February! From showers, to cards, to gifts, and most importantly your presence at our wedding ceremony and reception, we are deeply touched by the community here. Thank you for welcoming this new step in our lives, and we look forward to the continued sharing of life together here in Everett for years to come.
Peace and love, Alan and Vicki