July 30, 2018

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life.  Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’”  —John 6:35

“We are at a very interesting moment in the history of the church that requires experimentation.  If we try to measure our success by traditional metrics, we will fail—because the church is no longer a popular social institution.  It’s no longer just a matter of what people give or how many come to church, but how many times we touch another person’s life either virtually or in person.  We must ask ourselves how many lives are changed through community programming and online engagement, whether there is a spirit of love and kindness in this place, and if we treat one another with respect.” 

—Rev. Amy Butler, Riverside Church, New York

Those of us who come to church will often talk about the importance of being spiritually fed.  Many of us depend on our time in church each week to keep us nourished—as we listen, sing, receive communion, and talk about what the presence of God means to us in our daily lives.

Some kind of spiritual nourishment is important for anyone seeking to live a life of meaning and deep connection.  And still, in 2018, churches, mosques, synagogues and temples are the best places to be fed.

Sometimes I hear people say they stay away from religion because they have big questions and significant doubts about God or about those who say they believe in God.  But serious questioning makes the meal both richer and healthier.  And confronting doubt makes us stronger, whatever the result.

Some of us developed the church-going habit very early in our lives.  We may have stepped away from that habit for months or years, but we found our way back.  When I found my way back, I came to realize that I had learned in my early experience that the church was home for me.  While every church is different, I knew what to expect.  And, most important, I had learned that the church, while far from a perfect place, was full of good people doing good work in the world.

But whether someone has the church-going habit or not, and whether it developed early in their lives or not, all of us have some sense of spiritual curiosity.  The question is, what do we do with it?  Do we ignore it?  Do we even recognize it?  Maybe we think it’s something else, like heartburn.  Or maybe we are waiting or searching for some way to talk about and live into the meaning of our lives.

It is these people who are waiting or searching who present such a puzzle to the church.  They are in every age group, and they are the majority of those under age 40.  We are here to nurture and support these people in dealing with the biggest questions of their lives.  How can we do it?

We will have church at the beach each Sunday morning in August at 8:30—in addition to the service in the sanctuary at 9:30.  Maybe we can encounter those who walk, jog, or bike up to us on Mission Bay.  If this August is like last year, a few of those who are out for some early-morning exercise will stop—for a bottle of water or out of curiosity.  Or both.  Will what they see and hear speak to their search for meaning and connection?

Or maybe it will happen at the St. Mark’s community yard sale!  I hope you had the chance to clean a few closets.  And I hope that you’ll bring your family, friends, and neighbors and come and browse on Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

I will see you wherever St. Mark’s is!  Stay cool.

Craig