Not Safe for Worship
“Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus— for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” – Acts 1:16-17 (NRSV)
They come to church looking so good, wearing crisply pressed shirts, or expertly applied makeup. Their children are dressed in coordinating outfits. Their grandchildren are Fulbright scholars. Their work is successful and satisfying. They haven’t been sick a day in their lives. They seem doubt-free and contented.
We might go to church trying not to look as lame as our bad hip feels. Ignoring the judgmental looks people give our slightly-more-than-whispering kids. Hoping no one asks why our spouse never attends anymore. Avoiding questions about our job (laid off) or our academic prospects (failed) or our spiritual health (doubtful). We wonder if our troubles are safe for worship.
One of Peter’s first acts of leadership was to find a new disciple to replace Judas, who had done something a lot more dastardly than getting a bad score on the SATs or going into rehab. He had betrayed not just Jesus, but the whole community. His gruesome fate as recorded in Acts 1:15-20 is not often considered safe content for worship, but it must have hung over those early gatherings of the faithful.
When we want to hide our struggles, we remember that the church began among hurting people who had to own their pain before they could reorganize themselves and start to spread the good news.
Holy One, help us to remember that no matter what pain or loss we bring with us to worship, we are coming to you. You accept us as we are; we are safe with you. Amen.
Martha Spong is a UCC pastor, a clergy coach, Executive Director of RevGalBlogPals, and the co-author of Denial is My Spiritual Practice (and Other Failures of Faith).