A colleague observed after leading outdoor worship for a few months that taking our “in-house” worship conversations outside to the church lawn where others could overhear them as they walked by has made her listen to those conversations differently. She was acutely aware of what came out of her mouth and how it might sound to non-church ears. Was what we were saying or doing in front of others holding anything to make someone stop and listen more? Would they overhear anything they needed in the stress, griefs, questions and wounds of their lives?
Now many of us are moving back inside. But even when our in-house conversations go outside, is there much to inspire new or renewed faith?
Let’s try to listen to these readings without our faith informing what they mean. What if I heard this material as a neighbour walking by? How would it sound? What might I be thinking?
Job 1:1, 2-10
I’m not good with God using people as object lessons, especially with great suffering required. The wife of the man used as the object lesson doesn’t buy in and seems to be presented as another problem. But I think she has a point if faith is about willing to being abused by God.
I have to mention…the creation of woman is told like a necessary “program update” to install a few “fixes.” Woman is derivative. Her purpose is tied to a man’s need, which seems to include having a reason to get out from under his parents’ control. Couldn’t these guys just grow up before they get married?
Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12
Wow! Did that say we are crowned with glory and honour? I’ve never heard that before, but it sure feels good. I need that right now. Wait a minute—now I’m responsible for Jesus’ suffering? And Jesus wants to call me brother and sister? Hey Mom, Dad, I never did anything to him…
You know, I don’t think we need to lay out any more guilt about divorce. There’s enough pain already. But then this little scene unfolds and it doesn’t even feel like it belongs here. The disciples are turning back children from Jesus but he rebukes them and welcomes the children, lifting them up and blessing them. That sounds like the right thing to do. And then he tells people to stop “adulting” for a while and try being a child with God. There’s part of me that wants to do that. And maybe then have a serious conversation about all the other pain in the world.
What about you? When you tried to hear these texts as someone just “walking by” your outdoor worship service, how did they sound to you?
World Communion Sunday is this coming Sunday. On that Sunday, in spite of all the differences between denominations and groups of Christians, we turn toward each to remember God’s desire for us to be connected. But these texts have pointed me to consider how we connect with the people walking by us, whether we are inside or outside. What if, on World Communion Sunday we could all agree on a message we would most want people “walking by” to hear us preaching, acting, singing, sharing, revealing, offering, serving, praying, supporting, etc? What would a message like that be?
As we break the bread, pour the wine, give it to each other and swallow it, let us listen for what message matters most right now in common public witness whether we worship inside, outside, online, in creation, at home, alone, or with others. What does the gospel of Jesus Christ want to give the person “walking by?”
Diane Strickland is in her 33rd year as an ordained minister now serving in The United Church of Canada as retired clergy. She is a Certified Community and Workplace Traumatologist, Compassion Fatigue Specialist-Therapist, and Critical Incident Responder, author and creator of trauma informed resources.
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