Sunday, April 5, 2009

Going where the spirit leads you

"The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. So is it with every one who has been born of the Spirit." John 3:8 (Weymouth New Testament)

Sometimes I just don't feel called to going to church on Sunday. For years, I thought that was just laziness or depression, and that I had to force myself to get out the door and go. Somedays, I turned out to be right, and getting out helped me escape a rut of some kind by seeing friends and finding solace in a lively worship.

However, when I woke up today, my resistance to going to church was less about depression than exuberance. I woke up with the sun today (completely by chance, having fallen asleep at 10 last night) and then sat on my rooftop enjoying the wind at 7. I began looking along the Brooklyn horizon and thought of going to Prospect Park. I've been living in New York over a year now and I'd wanted to see it for sometime.

I knew though that I'd likely to miss the 11 am service at the Unitarian church, so I was torn. Then I read my spiritual passage for the day, from Garry Wills' "What Jesus Meant." The passage spoke of how Jesus cared far more about the state of our spirits than our rituals. I could tell my spirit, which I usually equate with my greatest joy, wanted to visit the park.

After a relaxing long walk, I made my way back to NYU and stopped in a new church, Judson Memorial, for their Palm Sunday mass. The service was nearly over when I got there, but I at least had the chance to rest in the house of the Lord for a few minutes. It was a great relief.

Now over the last months, I've spent my Sundays at several different parishes, and so far I haven't settled on one. Some people might fault this: my mother used to have a school of thought that you go to the parish you have, not the parish you want. I think she took going to our local parish even with boring sermons and funereal music as a selfless way of putting her faith before her own tastes. There's definitely a praiseworthy commitment there.

But to me that kind of forced parish loyalty goes against how Jesus moved through the world, how he encouraged us in John to follow our nomadic spirits. Jesus was a wanderer, always on the move. So to make sticking to your parish part of being a good Christian seems a bit off to me.

There are some weeks when the Spirit calls me to services, and others to fellowship, or some kind of journey like today. I may seem irregular or erratic, but I am constantly, consistently working to listen to the Spirit. And to me the most organic encounters with the divine are when we go beyond our routine.

Would love to hear from you.

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