Last Sunday, I heard many ideas from the preacher that raised the hair on my neck and generated words of retort in my mind.
Of course a defensive remark to the preacher was out of the question. People in my denomination do not “speak back” to the preacher unless it’s to tell them “Good sermon today.”
I hesitate to draw a preacher into a theological debate on Sunday morning because I am only one in a line of worshiping individuals, and of course, the coffee is calling me. Not to mention, I have continuing hope for an accompanying chocolate chip cookie.
Most of my own theological pondering began after the age of 40. I did a lot of education too. I have heard lots of ideas from the pulpit, and I can honestly say I have not agreed with many of them. Mostly I disagree, thinking I could have said it better.
I thought that meant I had not found a church home.
I thought a church home would be a place where my theology fit in with everyone else’s theology. My idea of God would match everyone’s idea of God. My open and affirming interpretation of scripture would be everyone’s interpretation. Then a shift occurred.
I began to listen for places of connection in worship, prioritizing theological process over theological content. Over time I had an important realization:
No one is certain about the work of God.
I realized church is a place where we all struggle with our continuing understanding of the holy.
Now I go to church on Sunday morning to hear someone from the pulpit wrestle with their idea of how God works in their life.
Last Sunday I heard a preacher refer to God as HE in nearly every sentence. I looked around and saw shining faces of others who appreciated hearing about their gendered God.
I have a phrase for this expression of God. I call it, “God in his HE heaven.” Yet, I realized we all struggle with the image of God.
Next week, I will worship at a United Church of Christ around the corner. There will be lots of women in leadership. God will be called “Holy” rather than male or female. And the preacher? He will wrestle, like Jacob and the Angel, with the word of God and his own understanding.
My mind may immediately reach for the places where I disagree. My mind does that.
Instead of wrestling in my own mind, disconnecting with worship, I will redirect my thinking to find places of connection with the preacher and the worship service. Connecting is what worship is about. Connecting with myself, with the congregation, and with God who moves among all of us.
Since practicing this attention-to-the-connecting process, I am more and more at home in worship, no matter who is speaking or where I am.
Listening for connection has become a spiritual practice for me.
I now experience home on most Sundays.
Barbra Hardy is an orphan on God’s highway. She currently writes to find herself.