we spend our life trying to become, but the beauty is in the unbecoming

October 22, 2017

Rebuilding the Temple (March 2017, Israel)

My devotional to my travel group from the last day.
We’ve spent a lot of time the last few days speaking about the significance of the Temple within culture. It was a place of holy refuge, of common hope, and of ancient tradition. In this passage (John 2:13-22), we see the prophesy of the destruction of the physical temple and its rebuilding as a spiritual space through Jesus. This passage teaches that church is not confined to a physical place anymore.
This got be thinking about the role of the church in my life. I grew up in the Lutheran church, and when I went off to college, started attending a large church. I used that time to strengthen my faith but found out later that this denomination does not ordain women as head pastors. I found that to be hurtful as a woman of faith, and when I moved back home after college for a year, I found myself feeling betrayed by the church that was supposed to love everyone equally. After that year back at home, I felt the call to quit my job and join Americorps for a year of service. I packed up two suitcases and backpack and moved to D.C. to serve as a nurse at a homeless shelter. While there, I got connected to a church startup–a small nondenominational church that I love very much. However, despite my love for this church, I began questioning some of its values as it relates to equal acceptance of all people regardless of LGBTQ+ status. Some people would call my grievance a difference in theology, but it has been a painful process to find dissonance within this community. 
A week before this trip, I was on a spiritual retreat and prayed in anticipation of our upcoming pilgrimage to Israel: “Lord, I have this burning love for you and do not doubt your omnipotence, but I do not trust your church.” As if he knew exactly what was needed, the Lord gathered the 22 of you up (my fellow travelers) and said, “these are the people Mari needs to be her church in Israel.”
Over the last few months, church has risen to meet me in funny places. I sometimes find it in the back row of a Baptist church with a female head pastor, whose very presence at the pulpit reconciles earlier pains I’ve felt by the squandering of women in the church. Other Sunday mornings, I find community in the church service connected to the homeless shelter where I work, worshipping next to my predominantly homeless patients. I feel church deeply on Thursday nights, as I sit with a small group of twenty- and thirty-somethings, debating theology over a beer and praying for each other. 
I feel like God is using this transition in my “church life” to reinforce this concept of the church not as one physical place, but as a fellowship of believers connected under God through Jesus. It can happen anywhere. 
One of the many gifts our faith gives us is the ability to be in community with fellow believers. I know I could not do it alone. My prayer for each of us is that we continue to seek Jesus first and to love of all our brothers and sisters with the same grace that Jesus shows us. This is a big prayer. It includes loving people of different faiths, welcoming the stranger from the foreign land, and being the good Samaritan to the victim of robbery laying on the road outside of Jericho. It’s a messy, inconvenient, and persistent love that we are asked to share. It’s the same love Jesus first gave each of us. And it’s the same love he professes for his church in the gospel.
Thank you to you all for being my church these last ten days.
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