Playdates: Relevancy

She is talking about Psalm 137–the difficulty of it—and when she reads it to us from the pulpit, I feel my insides contract.
The Psalms can be an invitation to stand beside someone who is in a place to pray a prayer like that, she says.
Stand beside. Sometimes that is what is required.
It matters how you read it, she says. When I emphasize Your little ones, I see that this Psalm was written by someone who has seen their own little ones treated this way.
first presby 024
I feel tears well up as she shares a story of war and death and injustice that explains the Psalm better. Later, she will speak about Lament and teach me form criticism.
 first presby 005
I sit beside my friend Chuck and most of my classmates are here and the sanctuary buzzes with the ruffling of papers and the shifting of bodies. I sit there and the truth of war and death and all the sorrows of this broken world sweep over me as I sit under that ostentatious dome. The sun shines through the stained-glass and I am smitten. I think about the history of this building, the beauty, the stewardship of it. 

first presby 035

first presby 043

 first presby 016
My own little church is cute in comparison, and I feel so small thinking about all the saints who walked these floors, dusted these pews. Suddenly, I am overwhelmed.
I want to be alone with you, I tell Him.
But He is silent and I know this isn’t the time. I am here to learn and to fellowship and even to worship. There are too many people.
I go to my workshop and we talk about why the millennial generation doesn’t come to church and I learn the number of people leaving the denomination each year and that there is a task force tackling this issue.
They see church as irrelevant, the young pastor says. Old-fashioned, hypocritical, out-of-touch
I think about how what is considered relevant changes over the generations, wonder about the relevancy of stained glass and gold-leaf and marble.
 I don’t usually think about these things. But I still have Psalm 137 on my mind.
They just spent 1.5 million dollars refurbishing the sanctuary, Chuck had whispered to me during opening worship.
It didn’t bother me. The place was built in 1915. I figure it needs shined up occasionally. Besides, I am impressed by history and am awed by the thought of all the worship that has taken place under that dome over the years.
But now I am thinking about relevancy and still…Psalm 137.
I want to be alone with you.
I have to wait until after lunch—eat my sandwich quickly, give my cookie away to the elder gentleman who wants to tell me about all the old farms that used to exist where my subdivision stands today.
I excuse myself.
The sanctuary is empty and I enter the quiet. In the stillness, I hear the stir of the passing years. I touch the wood, smell it. I go up to the balcony and press fingers on stained glass in the stairwell. He holds me. He knows I am wondering, questioning relevancy, but falling in love with beauty.

first presby 004
 first presby 003
What is the answer?
I watch light sift through colored glass and dance across the golden rosettes that hug the domed ceiling.
Later, I read a short history of that church—the building, its people. The author ends the narrative with this:
 
From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. (Luke 12:48)

Yes, I think. This is how it must be. 

And we are quiet together as the sun moves through art framed in windows coloring the mahogany of wood that has breathed under this sky and seen many lives move through this space. I breathe too.

How about you? How do you embrace the God-joy? Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. And come tell us about it.
Grab the Playdates button from the sidebar:

Sharing with L.L. Barkat today also:

On In Around button


And with Ann, I’m slowing down.

Comments

  1. says

    For some reason your photos wouldn’t load for me (I’m having an issue with this on several blogs, and it’s a sore grief to my beauty-loving eyes), but even without them, your words moved me deeply. Truth and beauty are relevant in every generation, and they are distilled into their essence in God’s perfect Word. How sad that any generation would find itself aloof to His holy whispers, whether in His Word or nature or in architecture, color, and light. Those who see the church as irrelevant don’t realize they are being robbed, walking away from a feast to fill their stomachs with empty pods. May God show them mercy and draw them into His presence to hear His voice, even as He speaks so sweetly to you.

    Thanks for sharing these intimate moments, Laura. I love your words and your heart.

  2. says

    I love the stained glass and the beauty of that old church. It reminds me much o the church i grew up in. I love the beauty and reference it displays. Thank you for sharing. It is sad we live in a world that I think it is so relevant and so many are missing out. You surely stir the love of God and His nature through your words. Thank you
    Blessings

  3. says

    I would do the same thing, I would pause, I would pray, I would walk the wooden steps slowly, I would touch the wooden pews, I would look at and study the stained glass windows. It is love in a new and different way, a calm sense of history. It is an AWE moment for the heart and a place that demands the hush of quiet.

  4. says

    Those photos–gorgeous! The kind of extravagant beauty that is in this place of worship is fitting, I think–where else is extravagance more appropriate than in our worship of the One who created so much beauty?

  5. says

    It is breathtakingly beautiful Laura. Surely such beauty comes from hearts filled with love and wanting to honor and worship.
    I am thankful you went back to spend time with Him. Thankful for your precious heart. He is too.

  6. says

    I am still working through ‘Spirit of Food’. It is nourishing me so deeply. It is taking me to places that I could not have imagined a few months ago. God is talking deeply to me.

    I curl up on the daybed. Listen to Him, for Him, wait in expectation.

    Your church experience quietens me too.

  7. says

    God never flinches from the truth does He Laura? He doesn’t gloss over the unbearable, overwhelming bits.

    It’s all about stained glass windows – the broken, sharp, painful edges of life that only become beautiful when He puts them together and shines His light on them.

    He remembers the children in that Psalm, He remembers their parents, He remembers their captors. He made peace with all our violence and captivity once and for all.

    It’s not over yet, but He is the hope that we set before us. And an old church, worn by people and polished through prayer is a great way to remember He is the same, yesterday, today and forever.

    Thank you for your heart Laura.

    Claire x

  8. says

    Beautiful photos of the church and stained glass, and beautiful words too . . . fitting with your line, “I am wondering, questioning relevancy, but falling in love with beauty.”

  9. says

    Laura, when I saw the picture of the sanctuary, I had to catch my breath. We once served a church almost identical to this one. I’ve also seen another one that looks like this. Must have been a popular, yet expensive, blueprint a century ago.

    I’m tempted to say “who couldn’t find God in that place?” but know better.

    There are many, because unlike you, they aren’t willing to see the depth and witness of it all. Unlike you, they aren’t willing to take time alone with God and enjoy blessed communion.

    I, too, have sat in church by myself and reflected on their history; it pains me to see churches close down for whatever reasons. It just shouldn’t be.

    I’m all about being “relevant” but how could any church (regardless of its stained glass or broken pews) be irrelevant if the Word of God is preached in those four walls?

    Not all pulpits will preach their worth; not all congregants will see God on their Sundays.

    But the church? It will remain, and what is required of us is great for we hold the greatest Gift of all… Jesus Christ as LORD.

    Keep to it. You’re such a great thinker and do-er of all things sacred.

    peace~elaine

    peace~elaine

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *