Sep 29, 2006

Don't Call It A "Church" Service

Larry and I went to this church on Sunday night. Though you wouldn't really recognize it as "church." It was in a warehouse loft in an industrial park … the same loft where Pink Floyd used to rehearse. Like I said, you wouldn't really recognize it as church.

The buildings are in an industrial area of town. Near the train tracks. On the wrong side of them. You can't walk to the market, or even a 7-11 at night. As we walked up the stairs, Larry remembered Madeline Kahn walking up those decrepit warehouse stairs in What's Up Doc,
Howard? Ho-ha-Howard? Hey, those are Howard's rocks!"

Well we got into the building we didn't find thugs. Though a long-haired hippie type grilling tri-Tip might have been called a thug by the kind of church goers I grew up with. His name was Douggie Ray, and he was a damned good drummer. But we weren't thinking about his drumming. Larry had his eye on the tri-tip. Drooling.

The loft was huge and comfy. Bars set up to serve Pellegrino and cherry juice and lattes. There were clusters of couches and books, and in the center, the musician's stage, set up in the round, TV monitors showing arty montages. And in one corner, they'd set up canvasses and paints. In case anyone got the urge to paint their worship. I couldn’t channel paint during the sermon but I'd write words. But there was no sermon, the pastor played in the worship band. That was after we ate tri-tip and bleu cheese salad.

It was definitely unique. I could have used a little more focus to the evening. I didn't know any of the songs, and only one really 'took me in' to the moment. It was almost a little too "pomo" (post-modern) for me. But I liked the fact it wasn't passive: you didn't sit back consumer music or a sermon. IT was interactive; DIY (do it yourself): you sing the music, or not. Go paint what you're feeling if that's how you process beauty and the divine (way too pomo for me, but hey, it takes a village) How did I DIY my evening? Well for the first while I sat there feeling spiritually constipated. Stopped up with all my own cares and preoccupations. It took me a long time just to get quiet and let the crap of Self drain out of me.

At one point a woman got up and recited, in a PoMo of way, the scene where Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. Now in the Bible story, Peter responds, "yeah, Jesus, of course I love you."

Me, when the first question came, Jesus asks: "Do you love me?"
I answered for myself. "No. I don't."

I didn't love him. Not if you took my actions to reveal my heart. I am all stopped up with Self. Sure I can talk about how the church is redundant and old and cliché, how I don't get anything out of it. Just that morning in the car I'd turned on the radio to some Christian station, hoping I could listen to a sermon and get something out of it. But it was so old and stale. It didn't matter what the pastor (a man of course) was saying. It was the same three-point sermon with some ice-breaker joke at the top. I turned it off and cried.

God I want so much to connect, I want to hear what you have to say. I want to love you. But this stuff on the radio, it's dead. Old dead and trite. Or I am. God help me.

SO that night when the question was asked, "Do you love me?" I knew the answer.

Sure I can talk about how the church needs to change. Or maybe the institution needs to die so something real and authentic can be born in its place. Or at least, I need something new. But I knew also that I talk such a great game. I'm sooooo aware and authentic and cool.

Gag me.

NO Jesus I don't love you.

In my imagination, I saw Jesus walk away from me and I chased after him, crying. "But I want to!"

I don't want to be deadened by the priorities of my culture, obsessed with money, fame and Brangelina. I don't want to be deadened by my Self. Or my self-righteousness. Because you can be self righteous about not being self-righteous too, you know.

I ran after Jesus, crying. He turned around, and said, "See, you do love me. You came after me."

But I don't love you enough."

That much was good enough for today.

I remembered I once sat listening to a sermon about Peter. That was back when I was 29 and I went to morning and evening services, when I felt alive and full of God, when my life was before me, and all the answers were "yes."

I sat there and saw, like a vision, the story of Peter as a movie. Peter looking back at his life with Jesus, all the ways he screwed up. The times he put his foot in his mouth, overreacted, behaved like a jackass. And of course Peter denied Jesus three times.
So in the end of this movie in my mind, Jesus has arisen and, in his own poetic irony, asks Peter, three times, if he loves him.
"Peter, Do you love me?"
Peter: "I like you."
But do you love me.
I have great affection for you.
But Peter, DO YOU LOVE ME?
You know everying. You know I denied you. How can I lie and tell you I love you?

Peter, I know you don't love me. But you will.

That’s what I saw as the movie title of the movie in my head:
"I know you don’t love me. But you will."

Back in the pink floyd loft the un-church service ended with communion. And when I took the elements, I prayed that I would love Jesus more.
And the answer seemed to be, "Don't worry, you will."

If you want more info about the church that meets in Pink Floyd's loft, visit the Basileia website.


Karen said...

I'm so glad you and Larry found each other. You seem like a great fit and I love reading both of your blogs. I think if you guys lived in Chicago (or we lived in LA,) David and I would invite you over for dinner. We'd have a lot to talk about.

And don't worry, you didn't miss much on Eharmony. Just a bunch of guys who list "Left Behind Series" as their "favorite books."

Levydry said...

Well I would certainly love to invite both you and Larry to dinner, but Durban South Africa is a tad far.We have a lot in common. Love this article!
Always enjoy reading your blogs.

Anonymous said...

You are right on, Suz. Love this one. Write on!

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