Church offers God’s food

Friday, May 18, 2012 9:17 PM

“... Eat ... or otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” Here in the Four Corners, these words provide sound advice for those who, under their own steam, take advantage of our magnificent outdoors. I watch the folks who pedal up to Dolores or over to Durango and those who ran the 11-mile Pueblo to Pueblo run two weeks ago, and I wonder how many calories they must be burning. Then there are those whose cars fill the parking lots at Phil’s World or out at Sand Canyon, and the hikers who hit the trails whenever the weather allows.

In each of those settings water is critical, but so is food. Without proper nourishment, what begins as a delightful day can quickly deteriorate. Legs begin to feel heavy. Muscles turn to mush. The proverbial “hitting the wall” is an experience we can imagine with alarming clarity.

“... Eat ... or otherwise the journey will too much for you.” Seven years ago I wrote these words on a scrap of paper and put it in the shallow tray that sits in the top of the case I use to bring the bread and wine of Holy Communion to those who cannot be in church on Sunday.

For me, eating so that the journey will not be too much is more than good advice for those times I venture out into the beauty of the Four Corners. I hear in this passage (which happens to come from the Bible — 1 Kings 19:7) a reference to what might be called the spiritual life.

However you might describe “the spiritual life,” many people today would say they can make such a journey on their own. They do not need any kind of community of faith. It is from these folks that we most often hear the phrase, “I’m spiritual, just not religious.”

There are those who say they are Christian who also say they don’t need a community of faith. For them, all that’s required is their personal belief in Jesus. They wear crosses around their necks, put fish decals on the bumper of their cars, read their Bibles (maybe), and do any number of things on Sunday other than go to worship in a Christian church.

Then there are those of us who can’t imagine our lives without a Christian community of faith. Some of us have spent time out of church in the past, but we’ve come back. Some of us never left. Some of us have recently stumbled into churches not really knowing why we are there because our beliefs may not coincide with what we think is expected of us. In our American culture of Individualism, all of us who go to church must look odd.

I suspect that many of us who are “in church” are there because in one way or another we need to be fed or the journey will be too much for us. Some of us come looking for the answers to life’s biggest questions. We tend to find our way to one kind of church — the kind that offers answers — the only and correct answers. For us, Jesus is The Answer.

Some of us come looking for the Quiet where we feel safe to grapple with life’s biggest questions or for companions on the journey with whom we can grapple with those questions. We tend to find our way to another kind of church — the kind where what’s offered is not The Answers but an engagement with ultimate Mystery — where the journey is the point, not so much the destination. For us, Jesus is a window onto that Mystery and a light on the path of God’s transforming Love.

Are you hungry? Does the journey feel at times like it might be too much for you? If you don’t participate in a faith community, you could. Some of us find not just food, but banquets there. If it is answers you need — “The Answers” — come and be fed. There are places for you. If what you need is having companions who are also sitting before the Great Mystery with their Questions — come and be fed. There are places for you.

None of us has to go it alone, unless of course, that is what we want. We can be spiritual on our own and relate to God alone. Or — we can choose to be religious — to be in relationship or connection with God alongside others. I don’t know about you. For me, eating by myself is OK, but I’d much rather dine with others. When what is offered is a banquet rich with friendship and joy — with comforting and/or challenging conversation that will help me grow — I am willing to deal with the discipline of participation, the discomfort of divergent views, the downright disagreeableness of having to accept that I may not always be right. Those are prices I’m willing to pay for so great a feast in the presence of the Creator and Host of life’s banquet.

Leigh Waggoner is priest at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church. She can be reached at 565-7865, or