This Sunday, we have a choice to make. We could make the choice with the majority of Americans to stay home and experience God on our back porches or patios with a cup of coffee or during a morning run or during walk in the park. Or we could make the difficult decision to get up, get dressed and drive to a place of worship. And there, we may sit beside people with whom we could not disagree more. We may sit beside folks who press our buttons, even drive us crazy.
In a recent interview, Rev. Lillian Daniel, pastor of First Congregational Church from Glen Ellyn, Illinois, has said: “Any idiot can find God alone in the sunset. It takes a certain maturity to find God in the person sitting next to you who not only voted for the wrong political party, but has a baby who is crying while you are trying to listen to the sermon. “Community,” she says, “is where the religious rubber meets the road. People challenge us, ask the hard questions, disagree, need things from us, require our forgiveness. It’s where we get to practice all the things we preach.”
She continues: “I think a lot of those who can’t tolerate organized religion are really just frustrated by other people. They think, ‘If they could just kick all of the flawed human beings out of the church, we could really do this Jesus thing. Better do my spiritual life solo, where I don’t have to be disturbed by the amateurs.”
I have a confession to make. During my break from pastoral ministry, I often felt the temptation to go solo with my faith. I would go for a Sunday morning run along the Tar River in Greenville. There, I would pray and enjoy being alive in God’s creation, and think to myself, “This is the way to do church! There is no one to disagree with me. There is no one sharing their problems with me, making me uncomfortable, and taking up my time. And I must confess, it was rather nice!
However, I must also confess it was very selfish. It was arrogant, and it was self-righteous. The truth is: it was the very antithesis of who Jesus calls us to be as his disciples.