Sunday, March 28, 2010

Come together, right now

Three words that scare liberal Christians: Church of Christ.
You probably know some of the myths that some Christians spread about other religions, particularly the Mormon and Catholic churches. Catholics can’t be saved unless they are baptized by immersion. Mormons will be eternally pregnant in heaven. Yada yada.
Well, liberal religions sometimes do that with Church of Christ -- at least some of their congregants do.
I knew a little about Church of Christ. Very little. I knew that they didn’t perform music in the worship service. At least I thought they didn’t. And I suspected they were pretty much anti-abortion, anti-gay and anti-other religions.
So when my daughter – born to a mother who was accepted into a convent at 16 (but didn’t go, obviously) and who embraced both a Jewish husband and a liberal Christian religion called Unity – told me she was being baptized into the Church of Christ, I was thrilled. I’m not being sarcastic. I was thrilled. But I was also a little worried.
She is one of the most loving, tolerant, insightful persons I know, and it seemed like a warm and cold front were about to collide and we were in for some stormy weather.
Except, I was also able to know – in my” thrilledness” – that she had made an intimate connection with God. And I believe that is what we humans came here to do: to find again our connection with the Divine.
Some people say the Divine lives within us as well as all around us. That would be me. Some people say one must accept Jesus Christ as their savior. That would be her. I don’t know exactly what people of the latter persuasion think will happen to me and my Jewish husband when we die. My daughter says it’s not her call, and I agree. But I also remember that as a Catholic girl, I felt bad for Jewish people who didn’t embrace Jesus because I was pretty sure they, at best, were going to be stuck in Limbo for eternity. Or at least until 2007 when the Catholic Church abolished Limbo.
So I had a suspicion that my daughter and her new church family might feel sad for me. That was not my problem, I knew, but it bothered me just a tad that someone would be praying for me to see their light, to walk their path.
Nevertheless, when she asked me to accompany her to church last week, I said yes. It was the first time I’d been in her town on a Sunday morning. So I put on my new blouse and black denim jeans and one of her spiffy jackets and we drove to her church. Inside, she introduced me to wonderful people who treat her like she is special, including an avuncular man whose counsel on a troubling matter gave her comfort. (I so appreciated him for that.)
We entered the prayer room, where people sit reading Bible verses and praying for the worshippers in the next room during the church service. Why, we have that practice at Unity! We sit in prayer during meetings and the like, holding the High Watch, as we call it, for those around us. I was tickled at this similarity.
Then I met her closest church friends and loved them at first sight! A member of the choir came over and she joked with him. I could see she had found a church home. Mmm mmm. It felt good to know she was loved here.
We sat in a pew in front of a table full of communion plates, and in each plate were several pieces of communion bread. The communion bread was matzoh, the unyeasted Passover cracker! I couldn’t wait to tell my Jewish husband.
The service began with the choir members running up on stage, microphones in hand, and leading the congregation in two songs, followed by a welcome, and two more songs, the last of which could have been sung by a Jewish congregation: “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people.”
I sang along on this one while gazing out the high sanctuary windows, watching the trees wave against the sky. “Surround us, oh Lord. Surround us, oh Lord. We need to be in your presence.”
And, in the middle of the hymn, I realized I was as uplifted as I’ve ever been at a Unity or Jewish or Catholic service. It was a benchmark moment in my life, because I understood that the vibration – the literal movement of the energy in that church in that moment – was the only “real” thing going on.
Not the words. Not the music. Not the similarities. Not the differences.
I know that all of us are one in God or whatever name we have for the divine energy that permeates all. And I know that all of creation is nothing but vibration. Vibrating quanta. Science has documented that. We use our human senses to translate vibration so that we can see the color of a tree or hear the sound of music. But, inside that vibration is where all of us – with all our individualities and differences – are joined.
Yes, the words we use matter. The actions we take speak more loudly than our words. But, as I finally understand with every quanta in my body, vibration trumps it all.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Walking through the Door ...

“We are all friends here. There are no strangers once you walk inside that door.” That’s a lyric from a song we sing at church, but it can be true outside of church as well, if I let it.

I’m in Costa Rica, walking up the driveway to the street to deliver my bag of garbage. It’s 5:30 a.m. and the bag must be out before 6. It can’t be deposited the night before because, like anywhere, dogs will tear into it and scatter trash all over. The sun has already sent its scout rays over the mountains to the southeast, so I can see where I walk.

Some bags already line the street, and I drop mine there, too. That’s when I hear music coming from above. Workers at Hogar de Los Ancianos -- the old folks’ home that is the landmark to tell taxi drivers where we live – are listening, and so am I now. Instead of returning to my house, I head toward the lilting sound.

I keep walking. It’s Sabado (Saturday, or the Sabbath, because the Spanish language recognizes both days as times for resting in God; Sunday is Domingo) but people are beginning to emerge. I walk only half a mile, and I pass a half dozen people, some on their way to work, some just out. The panaderia, a new bakery that’s opened near our house since we were down here last, is brightly lit with owners in the kitchen, preparing to fill the neighborhood with a sweet and yeasty aroma.

When I do turn around and head back, I see our next-door neighbor, the one with whom we jammed last night, headed uphill with his garbage. We kiss each other on the cheek and he thanks me for last night’s dinner. I thank him for the music. “More to come,” he says, both of glorying in the fact that we will be here for a couple of more weeks.

“We are all friends here. There are no strangers once you walk inside that door.”

That door, mi amigo, is the world.