AfterWords is a series of community-contributed reflections intended to further the conversations that begin during Parish sermons.
A 3-Minute Read
by Lisa Leeper
Here we are on the cusp of Memorial Day, the more or less official beginning of summer. Thoughts turn to vacations, to lemonade and watermelon, to days at the pool. I didn’t grow up with a pool, but I had friends who had pools, and getting invited to spend a day at their houses was like going on a mini vacation in itself. What’s better than diving into some cool water on a hot, sticky day in July?
But before we learned to dive into the pool, we all spent some time in the shallows, learning to blow bubbles, figuring out how to float, practicing basic strokes. All necessary prep to get ready to move into deeper waters.
We at The Parish are being invited to leave the shallow end of the pool and practice the “strokes” we’ve been learning over the past few years as we’ve journeyed together. What is that going to look like? Will we sink or swim?
When you were learning to swim, what was your aspiration – to join swim team? To hold your breath and sit on the pool drain? To play Marco Polo? I wanted to be able to jump off the high dive like the cool kids. (Once was enough.)
Acts 2 gives us a graphic example of what the deeper waters in the body of Christ might look like; what can be our #goals:
“The believers devoted themselves
to the apostles’ teaching,
to the community,
to their shared meals,
and to their prayers..
Day by day they spent much time together in the
temple, they broke bread at home.
Day by day
the Lord added to those who were being saved.”
Acts 2:42, 46-47
Doesn’t that sound awesome? That’s the church I want to attend.
When my husband and I were newlyweds back in the early 80s, we had the privilege of being part of a church plant outside of Baltimore. Our Sunday morning meetings included worship and prayer, a lengthy mid-service break that included lots of time for chatting with friends and making new ones while eating potluck snacks, and eventually drifting back to our seats for the excellent teaching that followed. Those Sundays were life-giving and so different from any church I’d known previously.
Our church also met weekly in house churches. I’d never been a part of a group like that before – a group of people of all ages and stages: college kids, young adults like ourselves, middle-aged families, professionals, grandparents, blue-collar workers and college professors. Our bond revolved around a mutual love for Jesus and a desire to be more like him; to make him known in an area that, by and large, relied on religion and not on relationship when it came to God. Our group argued and laughed, shared meals, cried with each other and prayed for each other. We studied scripture with intentionality. We took care of each other. And God knit our hearts together. I loved our Sunday morning gatherings, but house church was where church became lived in, like a good pair of jeans.
I’ve since been in a few of those groups that Jordan referenced where it would be preferable to chew my arm off rather than stay in the group. But the experience of being in that first house church has always lingered as the closest thing I’ve ever known to Acts 2.
This August, The Parish is going to wade into the middle of the pool with our own expression of house church. In addition to detailing the nuts and bolts of how house churches will function, on Sunday Jordan answered questions that have been surfacing as the idea of house church has been floated to members of the church. One in particular brought a laugh; a laugh that likely incorporated a good bit of painful knowing from those of us who’ve been around church awhile:
“Will this be messy and a bit awkward and possibly hurtful at times?”
Um, yeah. No doubt.
But was it easy the first time we let go of the side of the pool and flailed our way toward the other side? How long did it take to become confident that you could swim the length of the pool as well as the width? Did you learn the butterfly? Backstroke? To dive? I still remember slamming my shins against the edge of the pool as my instructor tried to get me to kick high enough on my initial dives. It wasn’t always pretty learning to swim.
We may have barked shins and water up our noses as we venture into deeper waters; our preferences may be stepped on and our ideas of church stretched as we try out this new iteration of the local body of Christ. But we’ll also have the opportunity to grow, to try new forms of worship and fellowship, to get to know each other on a deeper level as we chat over good food. We’ll have the chance to laugh and cry and love; to know and be known. It may not always be easy, but it can be so worth the risk.
Will you dive in?