I think I can trace the day I became a grumpy old man spiritually back to about ten years ago. I was a part of the planning for some sort of orientation at ETBU, the alma mater where I had returned to work for a year. We were sorting out the schedule and there was a block of time that we couldn't quite figure out what to do with. Someone made the comment that we could have a time of worship. I don't know what it was that brought such vitriolic reaction in me, but I turned my head annoyed and asked "Why does everyone around here think we need to fill every waking moment with a guitar and praise songs?" A faint audible gasp filled the room and I realized I had overstepped a boundary. And honestly, I was just as shocked at the words that came out of my mouth as anyone else. Up to that point I would have jumped at any opportunity to do a little praise-and-worshippin' with those around me. But I guess I had had enough of that, and have been on (somewhat) facetious crusade against planned-spontaneous worship ever since.
This morning we had what I think was our third outdoor Palm Sunday-Baptism service out at Indian Spring Park.* Before the service some of us were having breakfast when a friend mentioned some new emergent-type thing that was going on in town. In response I somewhat reflexively made the comment that I don't really have a desire to check this out because "I already have a church." I fully realize what an arrogant thing this was to say, because embedded within my sarcasm was the not-so-subtle suggestion that those who attended this particular event were aimlessly searching for the Next Cool Christian Thing, whereas I have found joy in the simplicity of the local church. (Yes, I can be quite the asshole sometimes.)
It was slightly more chilly at the service than it had been before, although the sun was shining bright. I made it a point when walking down the hill to receive communion to look around at the people around me. I've tried to do this more often lately, for if UBC baptism services have done anything, it is to make me try and memorize the moments I have with these people that I love.
Few people have bitched about this place as much as I have, but none of that maters in moments like this. It is all peripheral.
Later Josh and I were hanging out for a brief moment while Britt took three-year-old Roy down to see the river. The girls were behind us mingling. I recently commented to Josh that one of the things that makes me smile is thinking about how Britt and Roy interact, and watching them head down the hill toward the water, sun blaring down on all of us, made me think that once more.
There were dogs around. Most belonged to somebody, but one didn't seem to have an owner. Andrew brought his and Katie's new puppy over and baby Lillian reached out to grab it. Fearless, she put her face right in front of the dog's nose and got a face full of puppy tongue.
Did I mention the sun was shining?
I looked around. The Gunvordals were there with their beautiful Collie. I see only see those people once a week for a few minutes. That's about all it takes to realize what top-shelf people they are.
To the left and down the hill a bit some college guys were wrestling while Kelly was going around making a birthday video for Larissa, who is in Kenya. The Crowder Band was loading their gear and Miller was snotting on his dad's sweater.
I realized Tom and Beth weren't there, and neither were the Brownings. And I missed all of them. I also thought of Avery, Sutton, Jude, and Jen and how much I miss them as well. I thought of Kyle and realized how my grief has long ago given way to gratefulness for having been blessed with such a great friend for so long.
Ben and Jamie gave me a ride back to Cafe Cappuccino where I had parked. I had them drop me off around the corner so they didn't have to go out of their way. Walking to my car, the warm sun beating down while the cold wind blew around, I thought back to my comment earlier in the day-- "I already have a church." And again, it was an arrogant thing to say. People should not be disparaged for trying to find a sense of Christian community in places outside the bounds of a church. I just happened to have been lucky enough to find it inside those bounds.
So to all of you wanting to fill the empty moments with guitars and singing, sing away. Be caught up in the emotion caused by our risen redeemer. To those questioning their faith and reaching out to new forms of expression, question and express away. I think God is honored and pleased with what you are doing.
Never mind me when I roll my eyes. Remember, I'm just a grumpy old man. But one who has found his place for at least a bit longer.
* (I've written about the previous two outdoor services HERE and HERE.)