Worship life in the Big Top

big topWe have arrived, once again, at near homelessness.  Humble Walk aspires to be a church without walls--I'd say some congratulations are in order. Our final Sunday in our amazing current location is Sunday, April 27. That's the week after Easter, if you are keeping track. That's the week that the lectionary brings us John 20:19-31. It's no surprise that the week after Easter, we find the disciples locked away--hiding out of fear. And Thomas and his amazing doubt. I love Thomas--he gives us all room to doubt and demand first-hand, tactile experience with resurrection. Here is the full text if you want to read ahead (or maybe just save it for after Easter--if so, skip down).  

John 20:19-31

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." 24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe." 26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." 27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." 28 Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" 29 Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.



Still with me? Okay, good. Because we will gather to hear this story of doubt and Thomas and poking fingers on Sunday, April 27. But we still don't know where we will be gathering beyond that day. I can tell you where we won't be. We won't be in about 15 places that we have asked/toured/been ruled out or ruled out ourselves. It's been a wild couple months. We have inquired about space in every nook and cranny of the West End--everywhere from the Summit tap room, to the new Schmidt Artist's lofts to the old fire station on Randolph Ave. We have considered full time leases in store fronts--and even checked into the Big Top at Circus Juventas. I KNOW. (You wouldn't believe the price. $12,000 per event. But, it comes with a performance. If you were at Humble Walk worship on Sunday, you know that this circus has nothin' on us. All we need is a tent).

As a last resort, we approached our closest congregations--regardless of the denomination (because why would we say "no" for people?) They all have complete clarity on their answers to shared space: "No." Interesting. As a pastor and a lifer in this creaky old thing we call the church--it's depressing. Look--there are like 16 people left in each denomination right now--it seems like the perfect time to embrace one another. Another approach might be to lock ourselves away for fear of...(fill in the blank).

And yet. Each time we go through this relocating process, we learn and remember. We grow. Once again, it requires us to pay attention to our neighborhood. We muster up courage and walk into businesses and community gathering spaces and ask if they might want to  host a Lutheran worship gathering for a small chunk of change. (Weird). We turn our focus outward--and wonder what it might be like to worship in a yoga studio or a school or the back room of a bar or on another day of the week.

The other thing that I keep thinking about is the hunger for a church body that says, "Yes." I love that we are part of a denomination that makes room for others, that says, "Yes." All you churches that host other churches? I could kiss you. Honestly. I know it's a hassle--and it's wear and tear on your building and we barely fork over enough for the electric bill. I have sat through many a council meeting where the Property Committees are upset because some rental group has muddied the carpet or left crumbs around the altar. "And they aren't even MEMBERS." This call to Humble Walk has taught me over and over that it's really hard to find event space. If you have a building that you are stewarding--thank you. Prayers all around.

You all go much further--most of you are hosting AA meetings, Boy Scouts troops, etc.  Well done, good and faithful servants. Your hospitality in the name of Jesus is Gospel for the world. Do you know what it's like to hear "no, no,no,no, no, no...YES! You are welcome here." It makes us all creep out of our hiding places--those rooms we have locked ourselves in out of fear.

As a side note to our worship community at Humble Walk--I know you are anxious. It's going to be okay. What we need is a little bread--a little wine--a little water. The rest is icing. It's going to be okay.

Musical inspiration: Ani DiFranco Freakshow