The Eclipse of 2017. I know years from now this is how we’ll think about our recent solar eclipse. Like other historical and community-wide events we’ll tell the stories of where we were and what we did. We’ll remember the people we were with and we may even recall the conversations that preceded and followed the phenomenon. It was pretty incredible. It was memorable. It felt special and unique.
Like I do with most of life, I wonder what these experiences show us about the human quest for meaning and memory-making. Is there a “lesson” the Church can draw from the eclipse?
I’ve been wondering why it was such a big deal in the first place and suggest one answer may be the rarity of the experience. Even if you’ve seen an eclipse, they don’t happen every day. There was a sense of specialness about being in the right place at the right time. You needed special equipment, tools everyone could find or buy or make, but not tools you typically use. You had to make preparations, even if last minutes ones, to observe the eclipse.
Contrast this experience with our usual experience of church. Though we believe it to be communal, that you prepare, that it is special, many don’t experience any of that. Could the very familiarity, the repetitive nature, the regular and expected experience of church lends us to discount its value and importance? Could it be all of this is only true if we see church as a time of gathering or a place to worship instead of as a movement, as a people?
If we are the church (we are), then as ordinary as we are, together with Christ we become extraordinary. We are special, called to be and do great things. Maybe we don’t see ourselves this way and don’t share this story with others because we haven’t thought of the ways in which we are, and are being, transformed. Is there anything more incredible than a hardened heart softening to embrace the stranger? Is there a more powerful experience than the church enveloping a family in love as a child is presented for baptism? Is there a greater mystery than sharing in a meal whereby we encounter a living Savior?
If what prevents us from organizing block parties, renting out parking lots, traveling great distances, navigating traffic and weather and all manner of setbacks, preparing and sharing in moments of awe and wonder, is familiarity with the Church, maybe we need to reimagine how we understand Church?
I am the Church. You are the Church. We are the Church, together. And we are better together.
I agree there is little to inspire us in brick and mortar. There is little significance to our allotted hour or two. There is not much that separates our greatest program, ministry, and experience from other such opportunities in the world. What is worth getting out of bed for, what should draw us out of ourselves with excitement and enthusiasm, is each other. More specifically, what we are and become when we gather with and for Christ. This is what I mean by “better together”. We become the best versions of ourselves in community where we play and learn and share together as an expression of the why, the how, and the what of this life.
I will remember the eclipse primarily as a shared experience with friends and family and strangers. I will remember being drawn to consider my place in infinity. I will remember I hoped in some way I and others might imagine becoming Church could be filled with the same anticipation and joy which surrounded this event. Most of all, I will remember the eclipse brought the world together, focusing our eyes heavenward as we simply shared a slice of our lives. We were together and it was good.
Life is better together,