Christianity, my particular path of devotion and training, has as it’s root an incarnational God. YHWH deigned to come to earth as a body in the form of the Jewish Rabbi Jesus— identifying with the human experience of joy and suffering, sorrow and delight. The Biblical creation story has fallible human bodies made from soil. The first dirt being scooped out of the earth, Adam, a derivative of the Hebrew word adamah (clay or earth) is called to the holy work of raising soil, tilling and tending it, nurturing it as a baby.
Matter matters. It sounds trite. But it’s true. We are of the earth and the earth is of us. All of our “sins” are usually connected to the practice of trying to live faithful lives in complex bodies on an even more complicated planet earth. We need kindness, compassion and non-judgement for the reality of our lives instead of religious ideologies, doctrines and beliefs to defend.
Healthy congregations and pastors are rooted in our incarnational being-ness. It is part of our Godly nature, our Christ likeness to have a body with all it’s passions and struggles.
As a young pastor out of seminary, called to my first congregational ministry, it took me awhile to figure out what my congregants needed. They wanted to talk about their messy human lives at the intersection of theological and biblical wisdom—not just learn rote ideas, scriptures and concepts. But we were all unsure of how to begin the conversation. Those things most tender and close to our core as human beings were holy, un-nameable mysteries. It was not easy to name them aloud. Falling in love. Sexuality. Marriage. Raising children. Pain. Suffering. Infidelity. Bankruptcy. Mental Illness. Addiction. Aging. Death.
It was much easier to stick to baptism, communion, Sunday school and church agenda. Those things closest to our very being usually brought curiosity, joy, confusion, baggage, shame, anxiety, grief. Yet these were the fields of ripening grain to be tended and harvested for our full transformation and healing.
Its not easy to wed centuries of how we do church to what our bodies (and souls) need today. One Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber, author of two best selling books, Shameless and Accidental Saints, founded the House for All Sinners and Saints. It has been a church oasis for people who want to “keep it real”.
Healthy bodies, minds and spirits need a place to take off the masks we wear and lay down our armor. If church can offer this place of solace, the Kingdom of Heaven will abound within and around us! As Richard Rohr, the Franciscan priest writes, “We thought we came to God by doing it right, but lo and behold, we come to God by doing it wrong—and then growing”.
Love your matter. It matters.