“In my struggle to find church, I’ve often felt that if I could just find the right denomination or the right congregation, if I could just become the right person or believe the right things, then my search would be over at last. But right’s got nothing to do with it. Waiting around for right will leave you waiting around forever. The church is God saying: ‘I’m throwing a banquet, and all these mismatched, messed-up people are invited. Here, have some wine.’ ”
– Rachel Held Evans
If she hasn’t already, stick around church long enough, and you’ll find her letting you down.
People respond differently when that happens: some block it out and keep going; some drop out altogether; some switch buildings and start fresh somewhere else.
And some bring light to confront the injustice within it.
In some circles, the author and blogger Rachel Held Evans gets a false reputation for being a hater of the church. But if you read her words for yourself (and in context), you’ll discover quite the opposite. Rachel Held Evans loves the church.
She’ll help you love the church more, too. Through the filter of her own church story, she relates seven things (via sacraments) that the church does and is in her latest book, Searching for Sunday.
“The church tells us we are beloved (baptism). The church tells us we are broken (confession). The church tells us we are commissioned (holy orders). The church feeds us (communion). The church welcomes us (confirmation). The church anoints us (anointing of the sick). The church unites us (marriage).”
While “searching for Sunday,” Rachel finds resurrection. In this book she shares about dead things and things brought to life again. I believe it will help believers and doubters alike find hope again through community with God and others.
Here’s the breakdown and a few favorite quotes from Searching for Sunday.
“In the ritual of baptism, our ancestors acted out the bizarre truth of the Christian identity: We are people who stand totally exposed before evil and death and declare them powerless against love. There’s nothing normal about that.”
~ * ~
“The people didn’t have to go to God anymore; God was coming to the people. And God, in God’s relentless love, would allow no mountain or hill—no ideology or ritual or requirement or law—to obstruct the way.”
“We think church is for good people, not resurrected people. So we fake it. We pretend we don’t need help and we act like we aren’t afraid.”
~ * ~
“‘Let’s not forget that Jesus told the woman to go and sin no more,’ some like to say when they think the church is getting too soft on other people’s sin. To this I am always tempted to respond: So how’s that working out for you? The sinning no more thing? Because it’s not going so well for me.”
3. HOLY ORDERS
“All belong to the holy order of God’s beloved. The hands that pass the peace can pass a meal to the man on the street. The hands that cup together to receive Christ in the bread will extend to receive Christ in the immigrant, the refugee, the lonely, or the sick.”
~ * ~
“The holy Trinity doesn’t need our permission to carry on in their endlessly resourceful work of making all things new. That we are invited to catch even a glimpse of the splendor is grace. All of it, every breath and every second, is grace.”
“Indeed it’s easier to remember things together than alone.”
~ * ~
“But the gospel doesn’t need a coalition devoted to keeping the wrong people out. It needs a family of sinners, saved by grace, committed to tearing down the walls, throwing open the doors, and shouting, ‘Welcome! There’s bread and wine. Come eat with us and talk.’ This isn’t a kingdom for the worthy; it’s a kingdom for the hungry.”
“And the notion that a single tradition owns the lockbox on truth is laughable, especially when the truth we’re talking is God.”
~ * ~
“Our differences can be cause for celebration when we believe the same Spirit that sings through a pipe organ can sing through an electric guitar, a Gregorian chant, or a gospel choir—though perhaps not at the same time!—and that we each hear the Spirit best at a different pitch.”
6. ANOINTING OF THE SICK
“But there is a difference between curing and healing, and I believe the church is called to the slow and difficult work of healing. We are called to enter into one another’s pain, anoint it as holy, and stick around no matter the outcome.”
~ * ~
“In a world of cure-alls and quick fixes, true healing may be one of the most powerful and countercultural gifts the church has to offer the world, if only we surrender our impulse to cure, if only we let love do its slow, meandering work.”
“This is the church. Here she is. Lovely, irregular, sometimes sick and sometimes well. This is the body-like-no-other that God has shaped and placed in the world. Jesus lives here; this is his soul’s address. There is a lot to be thankful for, all things considered. She has taken a beating, the church. Every day she meets the gates of hell and she prevails. Every day she serves, stumbles, injures, and repairs. That she has healed is an underrated miracle. That she gives birth is beyond reckoning. Maybe it’s time to make peace with her. Maybe it’s time to embrace her, flawed as she is. Maybe it’s time to smile back.”
~ * ~
“I’m not exactly sure how all this works, but I think, ultimately, it means I can’t be a Christian on my own. Like it or not, following Jesus is a group activity, something we’re supposed to do together. We might not always do it within the walls of church or even in an organized religion, but if we are to go about making disciples, confessing our sins, breaking bread, paying attention, and preaching the Word, we’re going to need one another. We’re going to need each other’s help.”
Rachel ends her book with an epilogue entitled simply “Dark.” In it she gives this beautiful definition of church. It’s what I’ve learned, too, in my own struggles with church through the years.
And it’s so worth it.
“Church isn’t some community you join or some place you arrive. Church is what happens when someone taps you on the shoulder and whispers in your ear, Pay attention, this is holy ground; God is here.”
* * *
How’s your relationship with the church? Had its ups and downs? Please share in the comments.
My thanks to Nelson Books for my review copy of this book.
- Do you believe in miraculous healings?
- When you show up, you bring heat