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.