Wednesday, December 01, 2010

WordsMatter, a reflection on comfort

Here is the reflection I will offer on Friday night at the WordsMatter train the trainer in Seattle. Or at least it is my reflection as it stands now, written in response to this question:

"Share with us an experience when you noticed the power and/or importance of language (words, symbols, or images) and the impact of that language on your life, your faith community, or your relationship with God. This experience may have helped you embrace the Divine more fully or it may have been destructive, harmful, or painful to you in your personal and/or faith journey."

I should have asked her, “What do you mean by comfortable?”

I think I know what she meant when she said, “With so much change in the world the Church should be the one place that never changes. It should be comfortable.”

I am conflicted when “church” and “comfortable” are used in the same sentence.

On the one hand I work hard to help visitors and newcomers feel comfortable when they worship. I believe in hospitality, that people should easily navigate our complicated service, know when to stand, kneel, sit, sing, cross oneself, come up for communion, what to say when, whether or not its ok to not do any of these and still fit in, how to find coffee hour, and will anyone speak to me or help me - or will I stand alone with my stale cookie and bad coffee?

There is a fine line between what is comfortable, what comforts one person and what is uncomfortable to another.

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. (Isaiah 40.1)

The woman said this to me because the church was going through changes....

As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.... (Isaiah 66.13)

And so I’ve been thinking about comfort and comfortable. Could I have given them what they wanted and restored “things” back? Could I have done that? Would that actually have been comfort-able?

Comfort: “to give strength and hope, to ease grief or trouble.”

The church may be a place of comfort. We all may find strength and hope in our worship and our faith-life, church may be a place where our grief can be eased and our troubles cared for.

So, here lies my conflict. The church may be a place of comfort but does that mean it "should be comfortable;" the church should be my personal place of “contentment and security?”

Comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work.... (2 Thessalonians 2.17)

If we live into these words from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, then our comfort, our strength and hope, is found in the work we do. Jesus reminds us in Mathew 22 that the work we are to do is love. We are to love God, love self, and love others.

I don’t know about you, but I have found my efforts to love as God asks takes me right out of my “comfortableness” even as I try to “comfort” those I love.


Bad Alice said...

I agree. We want a comfort that strengthens rather than weakens. A mother comforts her child but still expects the child to go forth again. What our culture deems comfort - placid escape from all pain and disturbance - would probably look very odd to the old Israelites.

Jan said...

I really like this. I also like the thought of you being in Seattle.

Rev SS said...

well said! As I understand Christ's life and the life he calls his followers to, we are to "comfort the afflicted" and "afflick the comfortable"

angela said...

What we have to endure for others to find voice is fine. What I have problems with and it sounds like you do too is when someone is critical for the sake of being critical. It's not helpful at all and I dislike it even when I find later that I've done it.

Homily for the Festive Eucharist at the closing of the Episcopal Women's Caucus

The readings that we chose for the service tonight were all picked specifically for this service because they lift up the role of women ...