Saturday, June 30, 2007

One Sunday Morning

One Sunday Morning, or A Vision of the Church as Spirit and Bride

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. ~ Thrid Article of the Apostles Creed.

That Sunday I felt out of sorts. I was exhausted and spiritually depleted. I took myself to church anyway. Arriving well after the service had begun, I sat down in the back and off to the side. Feeling disconnected, I just sat and watched. I seemed to have no energy to do otherwise.

As I looked around, I noticed how people were praying, listening, singing, how each one was experiencing the service. I followed the reader who got up, walked over to a large book and read with a dry voice. I listened to a singer labor at her song. I considered how the preacher seemed to carry on a kind of conversation with the congregation and then to talk at length. Later the congregation sung a hymn in response.

At some point—I don’t know when—I began to witness another presence. All the people were like little actors through which a greater spirit was at work. It was not the reader who read but this spirit. It was not the singer who sung, but the spirit who labored within her. The spirit was manifest in the experience of each congregant. One congregant would smile while another felt the oncoming of tears. One would listen attentively while another found a kind of rest. The spirit was urgent or distant according to a higher will. The singing was humble and human, but it was also enveloped in another chorus of angels, archangels and saints. The spirit was at once the conductor, the breath, the voice, the song. This was surely true, though the ones who participated had little awareness. The spirit animated each in spite of their self-engagement, each speaking a word never learned and seldom heard.

At once I realized that there was nothing for me to do—no ministry, no effort, no necessity. The church is all spirit and all sufficiently in-fleshed. What is ministry but to witness? It is spirit. It is not unfolding. It is not becoming. It is not yet to be. It simply is. And it is whether we perceive it or not.

As people filed around the altar to receive bread and wine, I remained in my seat, a watcher at his post. I heard a melody. Not in the spirit, but played note by note on the piano. It was beautiful as it was, inviting and strangely familiar. Where had I heard this? Then I remembered with a jolt. That song had come through me. I had penned the words, “Welcome my full welcome; all my children come to me. I will make a way for you; I will make you holy.” I welled up but not for pride or a sense of accomplishment. I wept because it was beautiful just as it was—sung back to me, no doing on my part. Each sang as the spirit sang in each.

So I witness to the spirit and the bride who say, Come.

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