Church: A Place of Belonging & Where Souls Find Rest
- Sunday, July 9, 2017
- By Father Robin Ruder-Celiz
I am willing to bet that you know someone and perhaps it has been yourself who cringes the moment the topic of “church” or “religion” comes up in conversation. Believe it or not there are people who have a hard time engaging in a positive way with religion and church. However, ask these same people how they feel about eco-friendly technology, how they feel during and after a hike or skiing down Grouse and they will probably be willing to talk all day.
At the same time we realize at some level the importance of talking about and promoting Church. This is rooted in the Gospels. So here is the dilemma, how do we talk about this place, our church that holds significant meaning for us? It can be hard. We really don’t want to cause offense or be seen as “holier than thou.” We may even feel self-conscious about talking about church and our Faith because at the heart of it, this is a conversation that is deeply personal and rooted in our core beliefs and values. What if they disagreed with us? What if they say that we are wrong? Will my relationship change with them in any way? The truth is probably our relationship with our friends may change, it may get stronger, and we may learn more about their core values. There is a chance that our relationships may grow and deepen. Perhaps what lies at the heart of our anxiety is that we don’t really know, nor are we comfortable with talking about Church and our Faith.
So what is Church for us? Is Church a place where we can lay down our burdens before God? Is Church a place where we can truly be at rest and our most authentic selves? Is this a place where we can find sanctuary, meaning in our lives and a place where we belong for who we are?
I believe that when the Church, i.e. ‘we’ because through our baptism we all form the Church, are at our best then Church can be an answer to all of the above. So it is here in this context that we can begin to talk about Church not only amongst ourselves, but also with those whom we care about.
Church is a place, when we are at our best, a place where we are transformed, made better, challenged and given the strength and resolve to go back into the world, our lives and all places where God takes us, calls us, on a daily basis.
Church therefore is important in our lives and, as I mentioned last week, has the makings to be the most important part of our week. When the conversation changes from talk about dogma, policy and building maintenance, to how and where we find meaning in our lives, rest and sanctuary then we begin to have a really interesting conversation with people. Do you know someone who is looking for sanctuary and place to belong?
Yes I know we all have people in our lives that we can have honest, deep and personal conversations with. We all have people for whom we can trust with our anxieties, pain as well as our deepest joys and thanksgivings. These people are absolutely worth their weight in gold. But I wonder where they find the resolve and strength to be that support for us? Where do you get your support and strength to support and uphold those who lean on you for that same support? Where do we find that one place where we can lay down all of our burdens in one go without being afraid of overburdening our friend?
What we do and how we behave as Church is important and matters greatly. The Church is never to be a glorified social club where we gather and mingle with like-minded people. There are plenty of other places and contexts where that can happen. Rather what we do and what we have to offer is a place where we can wrestle with, be challenged by and informed by the needs and hurts of the world. Church is where we can lay before God all our hopes, dreams, fears, anxiety, pain and deep joy. We can lay all of these and more before God because God can handle it. Church is where we can be completely vulnerable before God and allow God into our lives to work in and through us. Church is a place where lives can be saved. Maybe it has saved yours.
But still the question remains, why? Why invite people to church? Why can’t we leave it to coffee shops and online chat rooms for people to find acceptance and value? Why should Church be this place of home and belonging? There are many reasons why, perhaps as many reasons as there are of us that are here today. One reason for Church to be all of this is so that others may come and see and know that they don’t have to navigate life alone. The world is full of lonely people who yearn for community and where they can find value for their lives. This is what we have to offer and an answer to the world’s deep yearnings. Church is where we can all call home – that unique sanctuary where we can truly be ourselves.
As Jesus says, “Come all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Mat 11: 28). So come and carry them no more. Tell your friends that they may carry them no more. Bring all burdens and your deepest yearnings before God. Let your soul find rest. You are safe. You are home.