Church was a comfort zone for me growing up. My father is a pastor and in one way or another, I’d usually end up with him at work everyday as a kid. With that, church became a second home to me, and the other staff members were nothing short of an extended family. I loved being at church because I felt welcome. I knew a lot of the people there, and they knew me.
More importantly than the social comfort I encountered in church, I discovered, developed and nurtured the foundations of my relationship with Jesus there. My faith quickly became the most satisfying aspect of my life, and since I could associate it with church, I loved being at church.
As I’ve grown, I’ve moved away from home and been to more churches. Because of my pleasant experience with them growing up, I again felt comfortable during services or other church activities. I can relate to people there. We’re all broken people clinging onto a Savior who can save of us from the disappointment of this world. Our words confess it whether it’s through traditional liturgy, a preacher’s sermon, contemporary worship songs, prayer, discussion in fellowship and the list goes on. I believe these cries from the pits of our souls bring us closer to the relieving arms of Jesus, but I also think they bring us together as the body of Christ. We find communities in relationships with others who are enthralled with the love that frees us from the crushing blows of life. This is why I love church.
Friendships and conversations with anyone of any background should be valued, but in church, I am able to talk with others, listen to others, sing with others and realize that I am not alone in my struggles.
This whole idea, though, of finding a community in church was challenged recently because for so long, I developed this community through verbal acknowledgement. For a class, I was expected to attend a Spanish speaking service at Annunciation Catholic Church in Denver, Colorado. My professor won’t like hearing this, but I was not excited for it at all. I thought, ‘How am I supposed to get anything out of a service I can’t understand?’ How selfish? Sure enough, though, I sat with my poor attitude for a majority of the service feeling upset. I wanted to take this time to be at a church where I could at least understand the message. Furthermore, I felt more awkward than a giraffe in a helicopter considering I was the only person with blonde hair and fair skin in the entire building. I felt stupid when someone would speak Spanish to their friend and then look at me and sympathetically say hello to me English. They mean nothing wrong by it. Actually, they were just being friendly and trying to make me feel like I could fit in, but I wasn’t having it.
Then, one of those mind-altering moments that only happen a few times in a life happened to me. They served communion. Now, I wasn’t allowed to take communion because I’m not Catholic, and I wanted to respect their traditions (quite frankly, I let that bother me too at first). But then I started to think about what was happening. These people with completely different backgrounds, cultures and languages than mine were going up to be cleansed with the same blood that was shed and body that was broken for me. They weren’t saying it with their voices, but louder than ever I heard every person in that building crying out for freedom—the same freedom I have begged for with other believers in English speaking churches my entire life. They were experiencing the same love that frees us all from the crushing blows of life.
I started to choke up, and soon the lump in my throat worked up tears in my eyes. Look, I’m a Lutheran. I don’t usually get emotional in church, and I’m pretty skeptical of personally experiencing my own “spiritual moments.” I love hearing about others’, but it just freaks me out sometimes. And there I was, having one in the last place I ever expected it. I learned on that Sunday morning in Annunciation Catholic Church, that the body of Christ I am apart of does not stop and start over new again when a different building, tradition or language is used. The body of Christ is anyone who believes in the everlasting love of Jesus, and it is the same love of our Redeemer that unites us together no matter what our differences are that makes us a community that will live together in the Kingdom of Heaven.
So, it could be said that I had a pretty awesome experience at Annunciation Catholic Church. I’m glad I was forced to go because I’m not so sure my stubborn attitude would have ever voluntarily gone.
Everyone needs freedom from this world, and Jesus uses the same love for each and every one of us to do just that.