I went to the reunion of my Israel group on Sunday. It was wonderful to see these good people again. The thing about going on such a trip is that you start out knowing you have something in common with your fellows before you even begin. Every person in our class at St. George’s had an interest in the Holy Land and in Jesus. Every person identified themselves as a Christian. Had we spent more time together, we may have found differences among us as to what “Christian” meant, but encountering other students is rarely the intent of a college course. We were there to learn from our instructors and that turned out to be quite satisfying. I would recommend to anyone to take a course at St. George College in Jerusalem.
At the reunion, we talked about whether what we experienced on our journey met our expectations or not. Each person had a little different perspective. When it was my turn to share I said, “I went to see the Holy Land through Jesus’ eyes.” While some people nodded, I am not sure they understood how that could effect my experience of being there. I have already shared in my blogs about my frustration that the instructors did not know simple things like the names of birds and bushes. I forgive them. It wasn’t in the plan of the course to pursue such things. But with my own aspirations, it was vital. It is my own image of Jesus, to be sure, but I imagine him noticing things like birds and bushes. He would say to a disciple walking along side him, “Hm! Take a look at that!” and then he’d likely glean from what they were looking at some spiritual truth or he’d see some hint at why humans act the way they do. The parables in the gospels are examples of his doing this.
Part of the course were opportunities for prayer and worship. I have to confess, I found myself unable to engage fully in these. Now, after a more than a month of being home from the trip, I think that it is because of my preconceptions that brought me to the course. Maybe I am misconstruing what worship is about, but it seems to me that it requires an object, a god or God or saint or an idol. Something outside of oneself. If worship was about relating to something inside oneself, then worship is a kind of weird thing. Navel gazing?
I have already had the experience of the Christ within…and it is out of this experience that I have been attempting to see with the eyes of Christ, hear with the ears of Christ, and respond with the compassion of Christ. When our group in Israel would gather for a worship experience, I usually thought about how Jesus would view the experience if he were standing in our circle. I tended to look around at the faces of my sojourners and consider the love Jesus has for them. Rather, I allowed the love of Christ to happen in me. If I didn’t feel that love, I apologized to the Father about that and went on to at least trying. I knew that not loving someone is an indication of one’s own limitations. All I needed to do was acknowledge the fact and let the Holy Spirit take care of the rest.
This is why I don’t belong to a church, by the way. I love community. I love sharing the sacred stories with people and listening to their reflections. I love serving with people, serving one another and serving the larger world. I just have a problem with worship. It feels too much like putting Jesus “out there” when he really wants to come “in here”.