I’ve been trying to open every Sunday morning at the church where I pastor with a simple phrase,
”you don’t have to be here”
For a lot of people, religion in an organized sense is seen as an act of obligation. There are many things that led to this. Culture, anxiety, an emphasis of ideology over humanity; you name it. But the simple reality is there is no one at Branches expecting or forcing you to show up (if you sense there is, let me know!)
However, saying you don’t have to be here is not negating the beauty of being there. When the obligation dies, the opportunity for appreciation floods in.
Between the popcorn we have popping in the back,
those experiencing homelessness and those making six figures pouring each other coffee and hugging each other,
the families hanging around afterwards with their kids laughing and playing...
It’s beautiful. And it’s also not “necessary.” Which, I believe, makes it all the more beautiful.
You wont see me begging you to come to church. I believe the divine is flowing and showing up anywhere and everywhere if we take the time to pay attention.
Any religion. Any person. Any meal. Whatever it might be, the insistence of God is there.
But I also know that when obligation dies, the entity doesn’t have to. In fact, I think that’s when the entity can actually truly be an authentic representation of what harmony and serenity can look like.
Because in that shift toward appreciation over obligation, the entity moves to a place where people can be authentically themselves. It becomes a place where humans can enter uniquely as they are without feeling like they have to measure up to something. It’s in that dynamic that individuals can appreciate a bigger reality they are all in the flow of. The homeless man, the mentally ill patient from across the street, the bank executive and the north side elementary student alike.
If anything, we need more physical gatherings like that nowadays.