Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A distant memory...The Wanderer for Wonderwhat (17)

(Parts 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16)

A distant memory of that fateful day (conclusion)

The Wanderer looked out his office window, across the courtyard and watched as two leather-clad bikers were entering the Big Room.

“I got an e-mail from a young guy who won’t be hanging out with our church anymore.” He said, almost absently, to his brother who sat in the chair by his desk.
“Really? Why’s that?” his brother asked.
The Wanderer continued looking out the window as he went on, “He said that…well, I can’t remember his exact words, but in essence he explained that he just couldn’t handle a structured, organized religion church anymore, so he’s off looking for something different. A different way to do church.”
“Organized…US? He’s talking about this church?” stammered his brother, in genuine surprise.
“Well, yeah. The e-mail was directed to me, so I assumed it was about us.”
“We played a dirge, we piped a tune, for cryin’ out loud, there’s just no pleasing some people.” Said his brother, who slumped down in his chair as though the weight of this news were pinning him there.
“It doesn’t matter. I understand what he’s saying. I mean, he is me, fourteen years ago. He’s looking for that ineffable something in church. A fleeting thought, a vision in the peripheral view. I wrote him back and told him he’ll find it, and God will do cool things through him in the process.”

The Wanderer smiled as he watched a young man with tattooed sleeves hold the door open for a couple in their fifties. He watched as they spoke to each other; he couldn’t hear their worlds, but the three smiles conveyed the tenor of their exchange.

“I found it you know.” He said, still watching the unusual threesome across the court.
“Found what?” asked his brother, staring at the floor.
“Wonderwhat. I found wonderwhat.”
“I wonder what the hell you’re talking about.”
“I’ve been wandering around the religious landscape for years, looking for something I couldn’t clearly define, searching for some elusive expression of church. You know, the right way to do church; my wonderwhat.” The Wanderer turned from the window and looked at his brother. “But after all these years, I realize I’ve found it.”
His brother looked up from the floor with furrowed eyebrows and asked, “Well, what is it?”

The Wanderer smiled.
“I was so frustrated when I looked into the New Testament to find a description of the church, and realized it wasn’t there. I just couldn’t understand why God would have left that important bit of information out, you know, how to do church. Something that important should have had a formula attached to it somehow. But it didn’t.
“I think I understand now, why it isn’t described. Because it’s not about how to do church, it never has been. I think a church could meet and it could use high-church liturgies or just be random, casual get-togethers, it just really wouldn’t matter.
“What I was looking for, the reality I was craving wasn’t in a church style at all. What I was looking for was you, and you’re wife…and the cop and his family, and the electrician and his…and the vet and the carpenter and the student and the single mom and her kids and on and on and on. It was all of us, together on this journey, and the story that it tells.
“Church styles will come and go depending on the surrounding culture. What’s really important is how we love each other, and how our stories intertwine as we go along. That’s where we find reality. When I ran away from church as I knew it, I thought it was the structure I was so offended by, but now I don’t really think it was. I think it was the way we prioritized the structure over people. The structure would have been fine, as long as we understood its place…as something that serves people, instead of the other way around.
“Emerging churches face the same danger that modern churches did, if we focus on style or theologies or philosophies or deconstruction. Those things are ok, as long as they stay in their place. Our church has a structure, the kid in the e-mail was right. But as long as we know what really matters is people, the structure is a secondary issue. As long as we are always willing to sacrifice any part of our structure in order to meet people’s needs, then I think we have church the way it was intended.
“Wonderwhat was not so much a how-to thing. It was about priorities. It was about relationships, family, and community. That’s why the Bible didn’t describe how to do that. You don’t describe those things; you live them.

The Wanderer’s brother smiled at him. “Wonderwhat.” he half mumbled, shaking his head. “So, what you’re saying is, we could take those surfboards down, get rid of those stupid candles, and play Bluegrass music during worship and that would still be ok.”
“Absolutely! It’s just that I wouldn’t be here with you.” The Wanderer said, throwing a pen at his brother.
“You just have no taste!”
“You’re dull and boring!” The Wanderer laughed.

They sat quietly in the office for a moment, until the Wanderer finally said, “It’s almost eleven, let’s go live a little with the family.”

They both walked through the door, and the Wanderer flipped off the light as they left. They walked across the court toward the big room. The Wanderer stopped, and looked at the building where they had been meeting for several years, then turned his gaze toward the people milling around the seats. As he watched them, he knew he had found his home.

The End