There are more than several advantages to going to a small church. Small groups became a Evangelical trend I'd say maybe 15 years ago. I'm sure the intention was good and the outcome successful, but for a person like me, you don't get the forced variety of people and, in my experience, that's very important.
In other words, if you go to a big church, you more than likely get to choose with whom you “fellowship.” If you're a mom, you get to join the mom group. If you're single, you get to join the single group. If you're a smoking part-time clown, you get to join the smoking, part-time clown group.
If you go to a small church, you are automatically in the small group and for me, that's where the fun begins. I don't need to go to church to solicit peers: I can do that on my own.
Therefore, I was very pleased to have my after-service snacks with Ken, a casually dressed parishioner who projected self assurance as he welcomed Erik and I.
The typical question, as usual, is “what do you do?” After sharing that my work centers around being a professional jelly bean, Ken revealed that his vocation is something that has to do with computers and/or electronics and/or including training, kind-of-very-important-guy-stuff. He did a better job of explaining the title, but if you have a profession in IT, you can explain all you like. All I can invoke is a picture of you in front of a computer doing something I don't understand. One thing I did understand, however, is that Ken will be teaching a class soon, he travels, and he's met the same famous person multiple times.
“Who is that guy....there's a game named after him...you have to guess the degrees?” This is what separates us a generation. Ken did not know the name of Kevin Bacon and may have thought it a novelty, but not really that big of a deal. He had met Kevin while at a hotel and had asked him when the party down stairs was going to be over before realizing he was famous. I would have been stalking the entire fiasco from the balcony, resulting most certainly in an arrest which, of course, would have been worth it.
Had I been in a small group I wouldn't have had the opportunity to hear this story because if they had a small group for people like me, everyone would be talking at the same time and only listening to their own story. However, now I am removed from Kevin by one person thanks to Ken. And little does he realize he is now removed from Pat Robertson by one, but that story is for another blog.
But what the breakfast item does Kevin Bacon have to do with church?
I didn't know that he did really, until hearing the New Year's Day message at St. Stephens. Episcopal churches celebrate the Feast of Names on January 1st (I personally think if you celebrate a feast you should have one but that's probably because I'm a glutton) and St. Stephens is no exception: The Feast of Names celebrates the verse in Luke in which the angel advises Mary of, not only her divine pregnancy, but also the name of the Christ.
Reverend Father Heying opened his sermon with a visual aid (namely his birth certificate) and a story about Jerry Falwell. The birth certificate lacked a name and the story about Falwell did not sit very well with me since it concerned the fact that the good Doctor always remembered names. If he remembered names he must have always forgotten my mother's since he did not address nor acknowledge her presence on more than one occasion. Of course, her being a female pastor probably had nothing to do with that (I bet Pat Robertson would have remembered her name).
Preparing for this blog I prayed that God would speak if he wished, to me first and then my audience. The day after, I was enjoying lunch in my car while tuning my car radio onto automatic scan. I briefly heard a minister say,”Name.” I tuned back to that station and found a sermon about the names of God:
Jehovah Jirah—The Lord will Provide
Jehovah Shalom—The Lord is Peace
Jehovah Rappha—The Lord who Heals
The list goes on and on. Notice how you can tag on “for me” at the end.
Isn't it interesting that more often than not, the names of God are intermingled with what God does for us? No, who He IS for us?
My mother taught about the scripture in Jeremiah long ago:
“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles.”
Mom's visual instruction allowed me to recall that word “wait” is a Hebrew word that created a picture of being intermingled as the strands of a rope. One strand is weak and barren of strength. Intertwined with other strands, you lose the picture of just one strand as it has become something else all together. And more than that, it has become strong.
This is the picture that is revealed to me when I think of the name of God. It's tremendous to imagine that the qualities of God become a part of our existence in relationship with Him. Paul said we are the righteousness of Christ. And the angel told Mary that her child would be named Jesus. Mary pondered these things in her heart. I ponder these things in my heart. God, my peace. God, my provider. God, my healing.
If God's name is a revelation of who I am, and He is revealing through His name the identity of others, then what is my name or my identity revealing to others about themselves?
Ken excused himself from the table after assuring Erik and I it was nice to meet us and Reverend Father Heying joined us after spending time with a few other new people who had attended the service that morning. He showed us how the new iphone 4 works and we enjoyed casual conversation.
As far as what my identity means to others, I can't wait to find out.
But waiting is exactly what I'll have to do.