The rumble of voices started to grow from room 200 as people arrived for the weekly gathering. I had come early to Atangard to do a walk around, to see progress, to look at how the building was being redeemed and reinvented. As people entered the room, opinions, ideas, stories, and good humor floated in a delta of directions. Then when it was time, there was call to attention as Sophie spoke. She called us to focus our thoughts in prayer, to be centered. Prayers erupted like popcorn kernels on a hot skillet. And then it happened; just as spontaneously as the other prayers—Debbie spoke about a beating in her heart—and we were centered, the flow was focused.
Debbie shared of her walk earlier that day. Her steps around the garbage cans set out for weekly pic up seemed to jump out at her more than the usual. I don’t know the intricacies of how it all works but it seemed that Holy Spirit was speaking to her, breathing on her, and allowing her to be “inspired” beyond rubermaid containers.
The implications had gravity as she shared the depth of the metaphor in detail. “Everyone has trash, and there it is on display for everyone to see.” The allusion was fittingly paired with brokenness and sin in our lives. Debbie described how some had bins that were sealed tight so that no one could pry—unless of course they were authorized by personal attachment or occupation. Also, she highlighted a bag that sat beside the trash cans, it was a bag of seemingly noble origins and was clear so that the contents could be seen. Ready to be recycled, acceptable bits and pieces were tied in these bags. Debbie called these the bag of socially acceptable brokenness.
“Jesus, wants to help us with our trash and recycling. It is all bad.” I could feel that Debbie was hitting a nerve. Comments started to trickle from those sitting in our odd shaped circle. I looked at the wall wondering what was to come. Would the room burst out in confession like I have seen at campfires or at charismatic alter calls. Would the freshly stripped floor be anointed with tears? Or would it flow more civilly, one confessing to another like a parishioner to the priest?
I took a few deep breaths. What is my garbage? What is my brokenness? What is my need? Are these my friends, my brothers, and my sisters worthy of being given the place of Mother or Father (priest)? We are of course a priesthood of all believers? (I may be ripping that out of context, but it fits within the biblical historical role of a priest – to go on behalf of the people to God for forgiveness of sins)
Confession and confrontation became a topic instead of an act. It was dissected and discussed rather than displayed. Someone voiced that fact and the comment left the room in silent decision. The pondering was then interrupted by vocal inspiration of one, and verbal processing of another. The decision was made. The trash although there was not being sorted tonight. The lid was being kept on for another maybe more unofficial time. Confrontation was talked more about than confession, and the popcorn began to fly as conversation shifted from internal personal renovation to the practical task at hand.
It wasn’t that we didn’t want to engage with the messy process of confession and repentance. And I don’t think that tonight was necessarily the time or the place. We are in process. We are in the liminal place of transition from cleaning and tearing out to installing, painting and moving in. All this takes time – He has patience. The rooms are waiting – He is our helper, We are broken – He is a skilled carpenter and has been broken and poured out for us.
I left in the midst of a few lingerers that conversed about life and plans for the future. I was refreshed and challenged by the meeting. The night called me to present my heart before the One who made it. Maybe this needs to happen first before we present ourselves to each other in a corporate confessional way.
Community happens at many levels, sizes, and structures. The thoughts and ideas of others led me to think that community is often reflective and related to the depth of our relationships (Communion). As well, I was reminded of a specific communion time shared a few years ago. It was focused on Psalm 23:5 – You prepare for me a table in the presence of my enemies.
The liturgy highlighted that we approach the table with both enemies within as well as external threats and dangers. There were masks surrounding the table decorated and labeled with the seven deadly sins. We all wear these masks at one point or another. They seem to be daily decisional breakdowns that we use as security for us – void fillers- garbage from the house of our heart.
In the midst of this our Shepherd sets a table. The invitation is multifaceted. We identify that we are the enemy as much as we have enemies. We are invited to step into love, repentance, redemption, and reconciliation. We are invited to move outside of our masks and eat and drink with the one who was broken and poured out so that we could be whole – so that we can “dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Ps 23:6) So that we can be shaped as a living stone mortared along with our brothers and sisters, trusting them as mothers and fathers, being the potential that rests in the treasure of the kingdom that lies beyond the confessional booth.
And yet the masks remain, garbage collects, a daily choice, a momentary option. Take hope, He is there waiting at the table.