A lot happens at church every Sunday. Most of it is pretty unremarkable.
We drive up in our cars – or a couple of people walk or bicycle over, if they live in walking or biking distance. We say “Hi!” or “Hey!” and “How’s [insert name of husband or wife or grown-up child or mother or father or …]” and we listen and yay and cluck and tsk and empathize and think of similar situations and how we got through them or … whatever fits the situation. We shake hands and hug each other and pat each other on the back and wave. We tease each other and laugh, we arrange to do things later in the week, we set things up, we make food and coffee, we eat food and coffee, we clean up, we open up, we lock up, we stand around in the parking lot …
More happens than we can say, in other words. So most of the time, when we talk about “what happened at church” with family members or other people later on, most of us will usually focus on whatever it was that stood out, the message in the sermon – like today, on Mark 7, mainly that we need to keep the space between ourselves, what we do with and to and for one another, clear and clean and kind – holy. Or something particularly remarkable. Like that the second-youngest child of the congregation REALLY liked the new toy we’re using in Sunday school. (Yay!!! Because that wasn’t a sure thing.) Or that one of the grown-up daughters of the congregation was there today and played Debussy for the special music and now after a lifetime of thinking I hated Debussy I realize Debussy is fabulous.
We leave out all the unremarkable stuff, which is most of it.
But everything remarkable depends on all of that unremarkable everything.
We got talking in class today about the Bible and what is in it, which books, and that some Christians have more books of the Bible than others, and what about those gospels that aren’t in the Bible at all, and all of that, and what are we supposed to think about all of that?
There is the “pious Christian answer,” that we have the Bible from God. And there is the socio-historical answer, that the Bible is a very human document, that lots of people over a long time and lots of editing and lots of decisions about the canon of scripture for a variety of institutional reasons and so on have handed down to us.
And I say: I do not see that those two answers are at all mutually exclusive. There are not many examples of us getting things from God by having those things fall out of the sky into the parking lot, although I saw that happen in a movie once.[*] And we might be willing to say we get the whole creation that way, come to think of it.
But. Mostly we have things from God by way of people, living real lives, and by way of all the ways people live out those real lives, and decide, and create and pass on and show and teach and do and don’t do for and to and with us. And most of all that is pretty unremarkable.
Which doesn’t seem to mean it can’t also be holy.
[*] In Wings of Desire, a suit of armor falls out of the sky, which is a big help to the angel who has become human. I couldn’t find a clip of the armor actually falling, but in this one, we get a glimpse of the angel carrying the armor.