Our church life supports the lesser things in our life

This is an article by Michelle Sanchez, she is a professor at Harvard Divinity School, in Cambridge, Ma. She had a particularly difficult year. During that time she became the musician of her small Christian church. She relates how that experience during difficult times, also during normal times does so much to help us remember that while things in our life are important, our relationship to Christ’s church is the center of our life and stability in the chaos of the world, by maintaining our relationship with Jesus and His people:

…The increasingly common logic that sees things in terms of monetization and productivity renders church either grotesque or quaint. But I would wager against this logic that church continues to matter because it is the place of habits par excellence. In church, people read the same stories over and over again, say the same words over and over again, sing the same songs over and over again, with many of the same people, week in and week out for years, even decades.

…I appreciate it precisely for this relative oddity. I appreciate church for just how hard it is to live in a high- pressure professional setting and to give a clear account of why it is that I ‘still go”. Maybe because the incongruity embodied in all those people who are so different from me but who nonetheless get up and go there, too serves as a standing reminder both of how fragile all the ‘important’ things are and of what might remain when that fragility reveals itself…

…One might have expected that my church attendance would have taken a dive during this time; [a number of personal family crisis] I might have expected as much. After all, I’m not required to go. I don’t get paid, and it does nothing o advance my career. It’s not particularly recreational, nor is it relaxing in any ordinary sense. I very well might have been tempted to skip out on church during those troubled months, except for one fact: that August, right before the fateful 2014-2015 academic year began, the longtime pianist at my church moved away and left a vacancy…

…I grew up playing the piano in church. It’s a routine I know well; I know all the sons inside and out,…

…In many ways, though, it was precisely that additional ‘job’ that saved my sanity during such a hard year. There were so many weeks that it would have been tempting just to sleep in nor to spend those hours on Sunday with Netflix, in order to simply rest. But I couldn’t, because I had to be there. There had to be music. And in subtle ways that I didn’t appreciate at the time, being in that space meant being surrounded by loved ones, by people who shared certain habits but whose lives and struggles were also drastically different from my own. Being in that simple sanctuary every week, under the arched ceiling, before the cross, surrounded by the hum of friendly chaos, furnished me with a broader and more robust sense of self by de-centering my own central importance. When I played that music, my body became a conduit through which the bonds between all of the people gathered there – young and old, poor and less poor,…grew stronger as we sang together. While I wasn’t fully aware of it at the time the experience of sharing music with others turned out to be what I needed most during a time when everything else felt uncertain and shaky…

Living in the world as it is, no one has to go looking for pressures. They will find us. Demands and aspirations compete not only for our time, but also for our claims to identity; they ask us to be authentic, unique, innovative. As I navigate the opportunities, expectations, and challenges that confront me in my daily life, somehow church, with all of its flaws, stands out like Mark’s voice making me conscious that it’s all the things in between, all the habits taken for granted, that most fundamentally shape who we are. What I needed most in my hardest year was paradoxically, to be needed…”

I would submit whatever gift, in addition to music, will certainly give the same fulfillment. Our service in the church strengthens us to deal with the rigors of our other vocations. When we forget the church, we lost a significant support system in our life. – Jim Driskell

Harvard Divinity Bulletin Summer Autumn 2016 pp 13, 14, 15

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