Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Potluck dinners and God

4 people arrived at the Perly Gates to request entrance into Heaven; a Catholic man, a Jewish man, a Muslim man and a person from the United Church. Saint Peter asked them what they had learned from their religion.
The Catholic person said: "I have learned all my Catechism lessons and I Believe."
Saint Peter welcomed him through the gates.
Then the Jewish person said: "I have learned the Torah and I Believe."
Saint Peter welcomed him through the gates.
Then the Muslim man said: "I have learned from the Koran and I Believe."
Saint Peter welcomed him through the gates.
When it was the United Church person's turn, he said. "I have learned how to make a casserole

This was told to me last weekend by a retired United Church Minister after I commented on how much I love getting together with friends for a potluck dinner. It was a good laugh, but it also raised a big red flag in my head because sadly there is truth in the joke. It didn't sit well with me........a bit like how I feel when I've eaten a mushy tuna casserole dish with those bits of chinese noodles on it. Nauseous.

As a person struggling to find a place of worship that feels right, it was not a reality that I wanted to hear. The United Church was my chosen place when I was young. I attended Sunday school classes as a child, confirmation classes as an adolescent, and became a member. It was a good fit. The approach to learning about the stories of the Bible was gentle; the sermons were reflective in nature and applicable to daily life, supported by fundamental religious beliefs and traditions.

But, it has been a long time between then and now. For many reasons, my church going has been almost non-existant for years and it has been only recently that I have felt the tug to return to something more formal than my self-misguided attempts at Believing. Over the past couple of years, I have read some of the sermons and speeches from the Moderator of the United Church. I have had the opportunity to hear him give a sermon and was profoundly moved by his words and conviction. He had piqued my interest again, but now, I wonder if the drive to be all-inclusive and non-judgemental to a point of political correct paralysis has watered down the fundational core. I think so.
An institution needs a basement other than one to hold potluck dinners in. It needs to grow vibrantly from a solid structure that consists of meaning, answers and beliefs. Discussions about the presence of God and Jesus have to be grounded in conviction. I'm all for debate and questioning, and I'm not looking for something that is so rigid that there is no room for interpretation. But, I don't want to waste my time asking the questions I have and having the answer be something like........."well whatever you think......or whatever you want to believe.........whatever................" I want to be challenged intellectually, spiritually, emotionally. And I want some guidance from a Believer.
Be patient...........the answers will come.............
In the meantime, I will continue evaluate my own thinking on spirituality and seek out opinions from family and friends, and I will continue to search for answers through books, articles, and papers. But, most importantly I will keep my eyes, ears and heart open to the world around me so that I remain ready to feel His presence in my daily life. I know that it can happen anywhere in any situation. Gotta be awake. Gotta be alert. Gotta want it!

"Plant your young apple trees. This is what Martin Luther said he'd be doing if he knew that today were his last day in the world—he'd be out planting life, planting young apple trees. Let God find you alive and at work nurturing life when God chooses the time of appearing. "
Peter Short, Moderator, United Church of Canada

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