May 13, 2012
The Sixth Sunday of Easter
In this week’s scripture reading from John, Jesus says, “This is my commandment:
Love one another as I have loved you.”
That’s what religion is all about for me, doing our best to love one another. For me, Seekers is a model of what this commandment looks like. Throughout my life I’ve known that Seekers is a place of love and acceptance.
This community has shown me that love is about honesty and vulnerability. Seekers is about digging deep and really being in touch with yourself, and then sharing that with the world. It’s about opening yourself up to others to further your inward journey. Tuning into your soul in the process of self-discovery. To me, Seekers is about sharing yourself so you can be known and loved and encouraged to continually grow. To me Seekers is not as much a church as a community focused on finding and celebrating the gifts and call in one another.
Seekers has shown me that love is about nurturing. In this community people see the gifts each person has to offer and encourages their development. Growing up in this community I have both seen and received this kind of nurturing. By having a rotating group of Sunday school teachers we got to enjoy the creativity and gifts of many members of the community, we did everything from making clay models of temples, to the Christmas crèche, writing our own books, writing poetry, performing in pageants, clowning, creating a whole Sunday service, candle making, and so many other lessons. Sunday school show-cased the gifts that were already present in the community and provided an opportunity for the children to experience new things.
This community has continually pushed me to try new things, and as I’ve grown in Seekers I’ve been encouraged to take on as much responsibility as I’m willing and able to take. When I was little this included things like lighting the candles on Sunday morning, reading a lesson at Christmas, trying various creative endeavors in Sunday school. As I got older I was involved in other things, like becoming a “Clown for Christ” as my friends dubbed it when I took the School of Christian Living class on clowning, attending different religious services for Sunday school, making the coffee for coffee hour at 2025 after Manning left, creating the Sunday worship after our “confirmation” class, going on the Guatemala pilgrimage, lighting the Peace and Justice candle. And more recently attending las year’s women’s retreat, cooking for School of Christian Living, and currently preaching. My life is filled with experiences I would never have had without this community. While there has always been the option to say no, these experiences keep pushing me just outside my comfort zone, encouraging me to grow.
Despite being born into this community, or maybe because of it, there’s a lot of behind the scenes stuff that I never really knew about. Wesley seminary had a class come here to learn about Seekers, and Marjory and Peter asked me to cook dinner for the event. That class was my first glimpse into all the things that go into the structure of this community. I was shocked by all the things I just didn’t think about. Shortly after that, the second Spring term of School of Christian Living started with the Semi-Secrets of Seekers class, I signed up.
The class was like when you go to a new place and you realize that your norms aren’t everyone’s norms. Like when I went to Japan as a child and realized that American breakfast food is not universal, that other places might have soup or salad for breakfast, instead of cereal. You finally get enough distance to change your perspective and see what behaviors and expectations you’ve taken completely for granted.
For me, the Semi-Secrets of Seekers class that Marjory taught was that sort of perspective change. I was born into Seekers, and have never found a place quite like it, so my frame of reference of what “church” is like is limited to Seekers. The Semi-Secrets class pointed out some of the behind the scenes things that seem so normal to me.
Seekers has shown me that love is about opening up. In the Semi-Secrets class I learned how rare it is to have mission groups instead of committees—groups where spiritual development is integrated into the call or purpose of each group. I’ve heard about spiritual reports from my parents pretty much my whole life, but never really thought about what they mean until the class when Marjory asked us to write one. Man, did I agonize over that! But as Marjory said, the spiritual report isn’t for the person reading it, so much as for the person writing it. It’s about opening up to understand your inward and outward journey, to have a place of accountability, and to get another perspective on the themes in your life. By opening up to someone you become vulnerable, but you also open yourself to all the good that can come from being in fellowship with others.
Similarly, love is welcoming.
As Trish pointed out in the Semi-Secrets class, it’s pretty cool that anyone can become a Steward, no one has to vote or approve an application, there’s no limit on how many people can join. It’s a pretty rare thing to be welcomed so openly into a group. Our weekly worship is also about welcoming, Seekers makes a concerted effort to get to know visitors, to encourage sharing, and to hear updates from people who have been away.
Love is generous. I hadn’t realized how significant the Seekers budget plan is, it’s a rare thing for a church’s internal spending to match its outward giving. It’s amazing how Seekers has maintained that balance through the generosity of the members even through all the costs of buying and creating this worship space. Seekers are also very generous with their time, there are countless hours put into the smooth operation of this church, as well as lots of time spent together in companionship. “All Seekers, all the time,” as they say.
Love is about faith. Every week Seekers invites someone to stand up here and preach. There’s no knowing what’s going to be said, and yet there’s the faith that the Holy Spirit speaks to each of us, and there’s faith that what someone needs to say is what someone else needs to hear.
Seekers has shown me that love is about passion. This community is so supportive of each other’s passions. Each mission group was formed around a call that several people really cared about.
Love is about joy. I really appreciate the ways in which Seekers talks about joy. It’s sometimes easy to forget, but there is such a focus in this church about where the joy is in our lives. In the Semi-Secrets class, Marjory brought up giving from a place of joy. It’s really stuck with me. How many seemingly challenging things can I reframe and take on from a place of joy instead of obligation or frustration? Now when I get frustrated with a task, or I’m in a bad mood about something, I try saying a short prayer over it. Trying to pray while frustrated is not easy, but focusing my prayer on the outcome helps me move beyond my bad mood. For example, I was really struggling with a recipe, it was for what turned out to be some really awesome cupcakes, but I was trying to fill the cooled cupcakes with some raspberry filling, and it was just not working out. I was trying to pipe the filling in and I poked several cupcakes to hard so the filling came out the bottom, or my piping bag got clogged and nothing came out, I couldn’t tell how much was going into each one. It was frustrating. But then I decided to pray. “Bless this food to our bodies” became my mental chant over each frustrating cupcake. It didn’t make the process easier, but it focused me on the point. It wasn’t about how perfect they looked, it was about feeding our bodies and nourishing our souls (I mean, that’s what chocolate’s for, right?) It’s not always easy to get to a place of joy, but there is always love to be found in joy.
While I know that Seekers is not perfect, it is the humanity of our community that has made it such a good model for how to love one another. You don’t have to pretend here that you’re infallible. We all know that we all have flaws, and that’s ok! You’re accepted and loved here, flaws and all!
Seekers has been such an influential part of my life. Growing up with grandparents in Japan, Seekers was full of extra grandparents, aunts and uncles and I consider this community family. While there was a time when our parents debated whether Marian and I needed to be in a Sunday school with more kids, Marian and I were always sure that there was no place that would fit as well as Seekers. I still can’t imagine anywhere being as open and genuine as this community.
Seekers has taught me so much throughout the years. There are the more obvious things, like Bible stories (I was shocked when some of my college friends who grew up attending church had no idea who Samson and Delilah were when there was a reference to them in a song). But I’ve also learned a lot of other things.
-Don’t volunteer others for a task, if you have a good idea be prepared to run with it.
-Religion is what you make it, believe and worship as it makes sense to you.
-Clown make-up is really hard to take off.
-Call is elusive, frequently uncomfortable, fluid and important.
-Marjory is secretly all the women of the Bible and could have been an actress. I have many fond memories of her telling the stories of the women of the Bible.
But I think most importantly, Seekers has showed me what it means to love one another. To live with honesty, vulnerability, nurturance, responsibility, openness, generosity, faith, joy and humanity. That’s what I want to be about in the world.
In the current School of Christian Living class on Mission Groups, Deborah was telling us about Celebration Circle, and one of the things that stuck out to me was that during their sharing, they sometimes focus on answering the question “How is it with your soul?” I just think that question is so telling of what Seekers is all about. It’s kind of a vague question, it’s challenging, the answer is changing and evolving. I mean you just don’t get asked things like that anywhere else! And while I have no idea how to answer that question I know I’ll continue to think about it. It is that level of caring and interest in each other that is so important to how this community functions. I also think it’s probably one of the scariest things about Seekers. You can’t really come here and expect to blend into the background. I’m sure that’s hugely intimidating to visitors, but I think it also means that the people who stick through that uncomfortable exposure are the people that are right for Seekers. That’s one of the reasons I feel like we can’t evangelize or advertize to attract more people, Seekers is only going to appeal if you’re looking for a place to be known and to be included. So instead of worrying about attracting more young people, I think we have to carry on doing what Seekers does best:
opening our hearts to one another.