Monday, May 28, 2007

The Perilous Journey of Being a Christian

Petra was confirmed yesterday, in a church which holds many memories of my faith journey.

This is the church to which I fled after my sojourn out of the church of my childhood, and a particularly painful working relationship in another church.

This is the church in which my life changed forever, upon hearing the words of the first ordination vow...

Do you trust in Jesus Christ your Savior, acknowledge him Lord of all and Head of the Church, and through him believe in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

... changed, because I was fleeing churches that endued human beings (mostly human males) with Christ-like authority. As I sat in the pew, listening to a new class of elders take this vow, it was as if I silently pumped my arm, and said "YES!"

This is the church where I was invited, as Director of Christian Education and an inquirer and candidate for ordained ministry, to preach about every six weeks over the course of three years, and where my pastor and mentor and friend taught me the first and most important lesson of good preaching, but one I still struggle with: You don't have to say everything in this one sermon.

This is the church where, when my marriage was on the verge of splitting in two, the intuitive and kind pastor (a different one) looked at my ex and me and said, "You look so, so sad. Are you alright?"

This is the church where, after a fourteen year journey with many twists and turns, I knelt in the front of the sanctuary and had dozens of friends, colleagues and loved ones lay hands on me to ordain me to the ministry of word and sacrament.

This is the church where, at the moment he (as an elder) was laying hands on me, my ex whispered the silent prayer, "Take care of her," and knew in his heart he was really leaving.

In this church, my home church no matter where I serve, I sat with Larry-O on one side of me and my ex and the woman for whom he left me on the other side of me, and beamed as Petra acted as liturgist for the service, reading the narrator part in the hilarious and bloody story of Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal. That same kind, intuitive pastor gave a searing sermon on the difference between true religion and false religiosity that shook the church to its rafters.

Then, as Petra stood with four other young people and promised to renounce evil and cling to Christ, with God's help, I stood behind her, scurrying to the front at the last minute as I remembered that her mentor was out of town, not wanting her to be the only confirmand without someone who loves her standing at her shoulder.

As we celebrated communion, Petra read this part of the great thanksgiving:

This communion feast now lies before us on the table, gentle in the quiet of this place. Yet we remember what it meant and what it signifies. Over these elements voices of every language have cried for freedom. Inspired by its content, many strived for justice and peace. In response to its message Christians insist that everyone should have enough to eat. Thus the quietest of places now becomes the loudest message to the world. And we also join our voices, rising from these your saints of every time and place...

In this church, this place of such great joy and pain and joy while remembering pain... not unlike communion itself... I witnessed my daughter beginning to live into (as Larry-O said last night during our grace) the perilous journey of being a Christian. Amen to that. Amen, Amen.


Grandmère Mimi said...

God bless Petra and all her family. What a lovely post, Mags.

You have a beautiful history in your church, a history of highs and lows - what life is all about, really.

Gannet Girl said...

I love that you use the adjective "perilous." So often people describe Christianity as a crutch, a comfort, a solace. I suppose it can be all of those things, but "perilous" seems to me to cut to the heart of the matter.

We Do It Too said...

i sit with tears in my eyes, so proud of petra and so excited to see where her journey leaves her...maybe even to seminary some day. much love to you and yours.

Songbird said...

Mags, such a day! Such a day. Two of mine have been confirmed, and it meant more than I could have imagined. God's blessings to Petra, wherever the journey takes her.

Diane said...

what a great healing place and what a great healing post. Thank you.

Serena said...

I always cry at confirmations and ordinations ... You captured the emotion of sharing the faith journey so well in this post. Thank you.

lj said...

What a beautiful post. Blessings.

Magdalene6127 said...

Thank you all for your wonderful words.

It was a special day for the whole family... all of us.



April said...

Wow. A church should be Home like this -- a place to hold us and comfort us and challenge us and send us forth -- and accept us back again. Thank you for this reminder. Beautiful.

Amy said...

Jeesh. (((Mags)))

What a beautiful post and an amazing journey!

Mother Laura said...

Beautiful post, and beautiful picture. Congratulations to you both.

I was supposed to do the first reading, the Pentecost story from Acts, at my Confirmation. But an adult took it over before I could get up there (did the same thing to the boy scheduled for the second reading). And it still stings a bit....So glad to hear that the youth at your home church were truly honored as brother and sister disciples on the day of their mature commitment to the faith.