Finding Church at 70 MPH

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Matthew 18:20

'Highway at Night' photo (c) 2008, M@rioM - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

The temperature was still in the upper 80′s at 11pm when Rich and I were driving from our gig on Saturday. We were soaked in sweat from the performance and neither of us smelled terribly pleasant. The air conditioning in the car blasted us as we sat there, spent from the exertion of playing for hours in record high temperatures. Half-drunk bottles of water dripped condensation into the cup holders.

We began talking about the music for the next day’s church service, and turned on the iPod to listen to the songs. We started sorting out who would play what part, how the form would go, what key the songs were played in: basic technicalities related to the performance. As two former music students and people who make a living from music, these discussions are easy. We can banter about dynamics and modes and whether or not a particular melodic line is pedestrian or just makes sense.

It’s safe. If we disagree, we can simply move on. We may have strong opinions, but we recognize that they’re just details. They don’t really matter.

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So much of what we experience in church services is this. Minor details. How do we serve Communion? What Bible translation do we read from? What kind of music do we play? What kind of chairs do we sit in? How do we use multi-media?

Sometimes, we let these technicalities divide us. We know that these things are superficial, but we feel strongly about them. Sitting in stadium seating isn’t church-y enough. Reading music out of a hymnal is just too old-fashioned. Drinking from a common cup is kind of unsanitary.

Sometimes the details are bigger. Politics. Theology. Justice. It doesn’t feel like it’s surface stuff. It feels very important. We judge a person’s faith based on their reaction to this bit of theology. We judge a person’s love based on their reaction to that bit of political discourse. We wish for the days when the Church stood for something. We long for a Church that embraces all people. People leave the Church saying that it’s just a shell of what it was. Of what it could be.

And we’re kind of right. This is not all the Church can be.

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As Rich and I drove, the conversation shifted. Rather than talking about the technical aspects of the songs, we began to discuss the content. How this lyric moved him. How that phrase challenged me. How we were changed as a result of our conversations, our interactions with one another. How disagreements didn’t matter in the face of love.

The other-worldly melody of Late Have I Loved You drifted over the car speakers.

I drew in Your breath
And I keep on breathing
I’ve tasted and seen
And now I want more
You breathed Your fragrance on me.

Our hands found one another across the half-drunk bottles of water. We locked fingers and lifted our voices together. In song. In prayer. In agreement.

For a moment, we found Church.

  • http://jenniferluitwieler.com/ Jennifer Luitwieler

    Why don’t other people understand this? It’s not complicated, it’s lovely! Church is not a building, it’s not slideshows or silver communion goblets. It’s being together, doing his work. Doy. You smart.

  • Diana Trautwein

    Just lovely, Alise. And spot on.

  • http://somewiseguy.com/ ThatGuyKC

    So awesome. Church is not a building. Thank you for sharing this moment. Kinda lends truth to the idea that “the devil is in the details”.

  • Dan Brennan

    Yes!!!  So beautiful, Alise!!!  

  • Miles O’Neal

    Again, well said!!!

  • Dan McM

    Amen and Amen.

    The saying that man looks at the outside while God looks at the heart can be applied to so many things…..  and that is, I think, one reason that God particularly loves reaching people through music — it is one of his best tools for touching a person’s heart, making them aware of more than the superficial around them.

    I’ve had church in the car plenty of times too.  Good stuff.

    And thank you, by the way, for mentioning that you were listening to Gungor’s latest some time last summer/fall…. I had no idea what I was missing!   “Let there be….   let there be…. let there be Light!”