Sunday, August 27, 2006

Jesus, Gin, and a Cat Bowl

More on the title in a minute.

I recently owned up to not doing much in the way of training on the weekends. Please note, that should have read "not doing anything in the way of training on the weekends." It's nice to have two days in a row where I'm not searching the house for my Garmin or untangling my Ipod headphone cords or taking multiple showers in a day. The theme for Saturdays is playing with Dana and whatever else happens on Sunday, you can be sure getting to church is center and front. This weekend was no exception and so this means all I have to blog about is a) spending a beautiful day in San Francisco with my wife Dana and b) shared insights from Sunday's sermon. So if you have a problem with homosexuality or religion or the interplay of both, then read no further. You have been warned.

Saturday morning was a stellar day. Dana and I headed out early to hitch a ride on BART to San Francisco, riding mass transit with a herd of orange and black clad Giants fans. [Blogger's note: All lesbians do not love sports. As proof I had to check with Dana as to whether the Giants were a baseball or football team.] Our first stop was at the Ferry Building Marketplace which is a total San Francisco experience. Located on the Embarcadero/Water Front, this old train station was converted years ago into a beautiful closed marketplace with dozens of little food and specialty shops lining both sides of the main hall. On Saturdays, both outside the front of the building and on the pier behind it a sprawling farmer's market is added into the equation. Fresh flowers, brilliantly colored produce, artisan breads, art utilizing every conceivable and inconceivable medium and trinkets a'plenty fill the white canvas covered stalls. My top four picks for shops in the Ferry Building: Cowgirl Creamery's Artisan Cheese Shop, Stonehouse California Oil Company (the Lisbon Lemon Olive Oil is outstanding!), Recchiuti Confections (I don't eat chocolate but phatgirl still appreciates looking at it) and of course, Peet's Coffee and Tea Shop.

After escaping through the usual Saturday morning swarm of tourists, we walked .74 miles (mileage consciousness is a known symptom associated with marathon training) down the road for lunch at Fog City Diner where Dana ordered a bowl of their incredible whole clam and choizo chowder and a frittata while I dived fork first into the omelette special of the day filled with cheddar cheese and veggies with a side of heirloom tomatoes on the side. Oh. Yum.

After walking waddling back down to the Ferry Building we proceeded to join the swarm to do a little shopping that had us hauling home via mass transit one bottle of aged and oh, so sweet balsamic vinegar, three bottles of oil (procini truffle oil, the above mentioned Lisbon Lemon olive oil, and a tart organic olive oil), and three bottles of wine for my amateur little sommelier. It was a glorious day in the city and with the Golden Gate Bridge gleaming, the bay filled with sailboats, and the dearest woman in the world on my arm, it was just another time like so many times before it when I was filled with gratitude for living where I live and loving who I love. Gratitudes abound.

On Sunday morning the scripture reading for the day was from John 6. The passage is full of mystery and miracles but the part that struck me comes late in the chapter when it tells how a large number of Jesus' followers became so upset with his claim to be the bread of life sent by God that they walked away. Apparently he was just pushing this whole Son of God thing a little too far, even for those who had been close to him through all the miracles he had performed and the incredible insights of God he had revealed. This last little revelation was frankly, just over the top, and so they left. This is when Jesus turns to the twelve, his inner posse' and asks "Do you want to go too?" and without a pause written into the text, Peter, one of the twelve responds, "Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God."

I never really heard the sermon this morning. How the pastor rounded out the passage never penetrated my ears because Peter's question was stuck in my heart. "To whom would we go?" Were Jesus to ask the same of me, I would only ditto Peter's response. "There is no other place for me to go, no one else for me to follow but you." Peter's question and declaration are my own.

And that's my dilemma; to remain faithfully with Jesus while finding myself in a strained and awkward relationship with the church that gathers in his name. In recent years I've encountered some profoundly troubling situations within the church, and by church I don't mean four walls and a steeple. I mean church as a wider body, as a living, breathing community committed to faith and the living out of that faith in the world. Living it out through love, compassion, generosity, peacemaking, social justice, and the valuing of all of creation. Simple stuff. Jesus stuff.

I've always believed the church could be a dynamic source for positive transformation in the world and yet in recent years I've come to wonder if the greater need for transformation isn't within the church itself. After a lifetime of being intimately connected to the life of the church I've become gravely disappointed in those who have been called to lead it and disillusioned over private actions that fall tragically short of public words. The inconsistency has broken my heart and worn out edges of my spirit. I haven't given up on the church entirely but I'm more wary of her than trusting. Our relationship isn't the same as it once was.

For the first time in my adult life my monthly paycheck doesn't come from a local church. For the first time in my adult life, my Saturday nights are free of last minute preparations and Sunday mornings unfold slowly rather than in a hurried rhythm. I go to church but I'm not the one unlocking its doors, or flicking on the lights, or checking to be sure the thermostat is set properly. I go to the table to receive the bread and the cup, but I seldom break the bread or bless the cup anymore. I don't have any regrets. I know I made the only choice I could but it doesn't lighten the grief any at what's been lost.

There's a quote by author Anne Lamott that goes something like this: "Sometimes the church is enough to make Jesus want to drink gin from a cat bowl." At one time in my life I would have found those words flippant and irreverant. Today I find them poignant and holy.

Church. Jesus. Often they're no more alike than apples and oranges. Sorry to say...


Bejota said...

Just to say hello.
I'am a racewalker and former (20 years ago) Theology student from Spain.
Best wishes
Bernardo José Mora

Ann said...

Anita: You write so well that it's a pleasure to read everything you write! I'm a lifelong atheist, but I respect those who believe. I'm sorry for your sadness about your church. I think the Christian churches often do not follow the teachings of Jesus. To me, an admitted ignoramus on the subject, some churches seem to make belief more difficult, rather than accomodating its many forms. I think the recently discovered Gospel of Thomas, with its emphasis on a personal relationship with God, seems a more responsible and potentially fulfilling guide. Sometimes I think people want the church to take the responsibility for deciding what is right, so that they don't have to shoulder that burden. OK, I don't know why I writing this. As I said, I'm an atheist! I hope you can find what you are looking for in your church! Keep walking! Crossing the finish line of your first marathon will NOT leave you with postpartum blues! Ann