Black ice coated New England’s windy roads this morning, and the harbinger was not the ice itself but layers of sand and salt that even the least diligent of drivers would notice. But the church parking lot was full, and the congregants prepared for the ritual. They gathered quietly, stilled by the morning cold, and stepped into that dimension of life that defies description. It was the tender expression of a faith that defies conventions of the day and yet dares linger in the present with both past and future in reachable distance.
The lectionary readings are patterned. There is the prophecy of promise: from the prophet Isaiah, light for the people who lived in darkness. Then the New Testament reading, the message of unity, followed by the Gospel story of Jesus’ call of Peter and his brother. There are murmurs of the mystery this all represents: called to leave family and lifestyle behind to follow, called to resolve differences and find unity, called to understand that the moment is now. Each passage, embedded as it is in the liturgical readings, speaks with a fullness to the open, the listening. Each passage invites reflection and its more visible companions, choice and action.
That is what it means to sit in the pews: it is not simply a passive experience; it is all about internal growth in a space with other people who are also somehow seeking, listening, hoping. It is about daring to find meaning in a process and practice that is at once simple and complicated, layered and nuanced. It is about being willing to realize that all forms of human jaggedness have a home here in the pews. People carry one another and are carried by one another in these pews. Weakness and strength, questions and constancy, caring and disillusionment all have a place here. There is space for the awkward and the doubtful, the disturbed and the growing, the believers and the broken. Because everyone yeilds to the sense that there is, in fact, something greater than self, something beyond what is currently known or understood.
Among them, there is the sense that Life itself is sacrament: sacrament in that it reveals and reveres the divine and the transcendent. Sacrament in that the incredible and the mundane coexist in every rendering, and each person’s fragment of the truth finds completion in the mosaic of the whole. Sacrament in the acknowledgement that none of us is whole without each other, that nature itself wraps us in the humility of the divine. Each deep breath begins the journey to believing in the gift that Life is, and the knowledge that the created world is both gift and responsibility. Then, too, there is the reality of uniqueness of each individual, the reality that each carries, projects, some aspect of the divine and transcendent. Ours is to perceive, to discover or to doubt, to discredit or to embrace.
Sunday is the space for making it happen, for taking the dare. There is no pressure save the purpose of becoming fully human, fully alive. There is no question save whether or not it is worth the commitment to fully exploring what it means to be a human being.