I had a friend years ago who was a very active runner until one day she broke her ankle. In one horrible moment on a patch of black ice on a snowy sidewalk, her life changed and she slipped, went down, and ended up with a terrible injury.
So what do you do? Well anyone who knows a setback like that understands that even the most avid runner can’t just get back out there even after the cast is off and the Dr. gives you the okay again. After months of waiting and recovering, you can’t just dive right in. You have to start slowly. And you build up. You have to practice, practice, practice until you get back into the feel and the rhythm of that thing you enjoy, that thing which feeds you so much, that thing which you had to give up for a while.
Which brings me to church. Why do they refer to faith in terms of “a spiritual practice?” Because, amazingly, our spirituality is not different from other things we do. Activities like running or speaking a foreign language or doing long math equations or cooking a good meal or singing – these things require practice. The more you do them, the better you get at them and you feel more comfortable with them and the more they feed you.
I don’t know if we even realize it when we are going to church on Sunday that we are exercising muscles within us related to our connection to God. Praying. Singing hymns. Listening to sermons. Relating to other people. Helping at the service. All of these things are activities that require our attention and our effort and are just like anything else we do – they require practice. The presence of God is always there. But the active relationship with God is prone to distractions and certainly easily thrown off. Just as much as my friend’s running game was thrown off when she broke her ankle.
So a couple years ago we had a pandemic and during the time of the pandemic we were closed, shut off from the practice of going to church. Many attended on line, many prayed in their hearts, with their families and friends, and did a lot to keep the relationship with God alive. But many also fell out of practice.
I am writing today to encourage you to get back to your spiritual practice. I cannot presume to know which of the members of the Cathedral are and which are not actively practicing their faith. But I do know that across every tradition and in every congregation many, many people got out of the practice of church during the pandemic, and it’s taking them a while to get back. I encourage you to come back. To start slowly if it’s been a while. To not worry about whether or not people will say to you, “Where have you been? It’s been such a long time?” Don’t worry about what others say – mostly they are happy to see you and are trying to tell you how much they care.
If you need motivation I invite you to hold in your mind a memory or an image of something really great you experienced at church, and to meditate and pray on that. Perhaps you can connect with what used to feed you. The memory is still alive within you. You will not be stepping into the same river as before. You will find that some things have changed at church, for change is the nature of life. And you will also see that in some ways nothing has changed, for the loving and giving power of God is always the same.
I am aware that many people still cannot come back to a public gathering like church because of health concerns, and I ask you to please let me know if we can accommodate you with a visit or regular visits. We do that.
But for everyone else, what are you waiting for? The first time I got back to the gym after my stomach surgery last year, I felt weak and awkward and out of shape. But now, a year later, I feel great doing the same exact things. And what is church: you come in, sit, stand, kneel, talk, sing, pray, listen, greet. You are touched and changed. You come back and do it again. Transformation is a pretty slow and gradual process. And this transformation will lead to something good.
I hope to see you soon. If you’d like to talk more, don’t hesitate to call.