When I stumbled into a City Pres worship service for the first time, I was looking for a place to hide. I wanted to curl up and die – maybe literally – without anyone noticing me. I felt like my marriage and my life were in shambles. I felt that I had been minding my own business, dutifully surviving the everyday routine of family life, when I came across an IED. At that point I just wanted to be left alone to bleed out.
God had other plans.
As I sat there in the pew that December evening, I was struck first by the welcoming, conversational call to worship. Here was this pastor in the formal vestments of his office, extending a hand and saying that it was okay to bring our doubt and brokenness.
Whoa. What? I can admit that I have doubts? But I’m falling apart completely… that might be too much…
Then two people stood up and proceeded to tell the entire congregation how they had been suffering lately. In detail. They described a heartbreaking season of unemployment, fear, infertility, anger, and… hope. When they finished, I was fighting hard not to cry. For them. For me. Because the whole point of their story was that God was rescuing them. Call me obtuse, but that’s when it dawned on me for the first time that maybe God would rescue me, too. Maybe there was a point to all this.
He did. And there was.
And I have come to realize that church is not a place for perfect people. You would think that growing up as a Christian I would know this. Perhaps I did know it with my head; my heart had to be broken to learn it. My own experience and the believers at City Pres have made it clear to me that church is more like a hospital than anything else. We are all the walking wounded. Next time you are in church, imagine the people around you as if you are in a field hospital
scene from an old war movie: everyone wearing bandages and casts and all in various stages of injury, suffering, and healing. Because we are. But also imagine that there is a Physician, walking among us. We can’t quite see His face, but He is there and He is promising we will be completely healed, better than new. Soon. Not yet, but soon.
That’s what church is supposed to be. We show up, admit we are dying, and receive the life we need from the Spirit, through the sacraments and the word. And of course God has given us one another – to bind each other up.
So that’s why I love the time during our service when we tell stories of rescue: because I am a broken person. I need to be rescued. And I need to be reminded that I am not alone in this. You’re broken, too. You need rescuing. And you are not alone, either.