I went to church this week and I got drenched. This is no metaphor. Water was scooped up out of a big bowl and lovingly splashed on me. God was right there in that splash, real and wet and thirst quenching.
As the water dripped down my face, I thought, God, this is what I’m thirsty for at church right now. When we do this thing we call worship I am thirsty to see and touch and feel God’s presence.
For those of you who sat with me in the pews on Sunday morning and are thinking, what is she talking about? There was no water. I should clarify that I am talking about Friday morning church not Sunday morning church. This ritual of anointing with water was part of an event called School for Ministers that I got to experience this week.
Christine Longhurst who reads and writes and analyzes and experiences all different kinds of worship in her role as a prof at Canadian Mennonite University helped open my eyes to the fact that when I go to church I am thirsty for an encounter with God. The splash in the face confirmed it.
So often in church we talk about God, we sing songs about God, but we don’t make space to act as if God is actually present right there in the sanctuary with us.
What if we spent more time in silence listening for God’s movement in our being? What if we broke bread and drank wine together often? What if we sang songs and prayed prayers that spoke to God not just about God?
It is probably possible to swing too far in this direction and focus so much on our own individual experience of God that we forget about Jesus’ radical call to community, hospitality and love of neighbour. In my experience, the opposite is often true in the progressive, urban Mennonite churches I love so much.
Honestly, I think we are so scared of bearing any resemblance to conservative, evangelical churches that we get nervous about the whole idea of encountering God in a church service. Or is that just me?
All I know is, on Friday I stood close to friends and colleagues by a big bowl of water and someone I hardly know plunged her hands into that water and brought out a big dripping handful of it that she splashed on my head, my face. She told me that I was God’s beloved child.
And I felt something then. A connection to those around me. A sense of peace. A calling to serve. I know God was there. And even as my thirst was quenched, I know I will always be thirsty.
Whether church in the traditional sense is part of your life, whether you left that behind long ago, or whether you’ve never experienced it, what are you thirsty for in the deepest part of your being? Have you experienced times or places in your life where that thirst has been quenched?
Like a stag, a doe,
longing for streams of cool water,
my whole being longs for you,
My soul aches with thirst for God,
for a god that lives!
(Psalm 42:1-2 The Inclusive Bible)