This Is Not Church
"THIS is my small group."
"I don't know that this qualifies as a small group*."
Yes. It does.
That one time we actually all went out and went bowling, drank at a speakeasy, bought pie at a window, then hung out in a pub until 2am laughing hysterically about theology, sleep walking, and other nonsense.
I also used to think I was the only one who believed that.
I'm basically adorable.
Everyone has their "ceiling." Everyone has a moment or a stage or a lifetime when they believe God is stationary. Everyone tries to understand God by placing the divine in a box, as if we could ever even begin to understand (spoilers, we can't).
Only in the Bible.
Only in a church building.
Only in a Sunday Service.
Only in the hearts of Christian believers.
Just kidding, God is only in the hearts of SOME Christian believers. Specifically the ones that have the same beliefs and theology as I do - oh, and political leanings. Oh, and they also have to dress the right way and say the right things - yah, only those ones. God is definitely not in Judy, I mean that woman...
Oh, we are precious, aren't we?
Because God clearly states: "You shall know my every movement and exactly where I am and what I am doing and my motivation for doing it. Always. And you should make other people feel bad about they fact that they clearly have no idea, because you? You are special. Hashtag favorite!"
*In case you're not up-to-date on "Christianese" (a language specifically designed to test whether or not you are one of the select few in whom God resides), a small group/home group/discipleship group/ministry group/bible study group/fellowship group/cell group (unfortunate)/or any other term you can imagine is used to describe a group of 3-20 people who gather to study the Bible or some other theological book of some kind.
So when my beautiful friend asked if I was going to be participating in a "small group," my response was - and will always be - that I already was.
There is a group of us, about 5 families in all walks of life, who gather together to do what we call "Friday Night Dinners." This is a semi-regular occurrence where we gather, catch up, break into one-on-ones or little groups to dive deeper or hear more about specific people's journeys and happenings. Sometimes someone has a question they want answered by everyone, or a concept they bring up to discuss. Sometimes we drink and laugh. Sometimes we have near interventions. Sometimes we have counseling sessions. Sometimes we cry and mourn together.
We always eat.
It is disorganized, sometimes we do it weekly, other times it is a month or two before we see each other again. Margaritas one night, beer another, the wine of Christ our Lord almost always. Everyone brings a main or a side or a dessert or just empties their pantry into a box and lets everyone else pick through. It is casual and upbeat while also allowing for depth and tears.
And I can see how it might not fit the requirements of a traditional small group. There is no bible study. Even when a theological issue is raised, we maybe only spend 30 minutes diving in. Our lives being the more important discussion.
But here is the thing.
You have maybe heard this before, but there is no word for "secular" in the bible. It doesn't exist. ALL things are holy. Are there bad, evil, gross things in the world? Sure. But "secular" does not equal evil. Evil creeps in wherever it can, be it in a heroin needle or a Catholic Priest or racism or me wanting to key our neighbor's car because they drive too fast in our neighborhood. And yes, please do fight evil in any and every place you can, but that's not what we are talking about today.
There is no sacred v. secular. That is NONSENSE.
Friday Night Dinners, and the like, are not just my small group, they are my church. We gather and we eat and we share our holy messed up lives together. We walk through seasons of joy, seasons of loss, of confusion or happiness or change or any and all things together. As long as we are doing it with love? It is holy. It is church and small group and so much more. So much better. Because it is also a space where we all feel safe and good and loved.
Well, most of the time. None of us is perfect. But the nice thing is, we know it. And we fully acknowledge the fact that we fail to show up for each other some times. We get lost in our own stuff, busy or depressed, and we don't remember to do life together. Also, in this particular season, we aren't gathering as often. Part of it has to do with dear friends moving to the other side of the country (because they hate us, clearly), part of it has to do with a shift in priorities for some of us, part of it has to do with the fact that Fall is always super bonkers for everyone's schedules - always.
But even if we aren't getting together on a weekly basis anymore - for which we will all blame Chad, forever - it's okay. I don't need a weekly commitment from my people to love them. There will be seasons of immense closeness with others and seasons of being alone. There will be shifts in who your people are, shifts as you need different things and as people change and move. And those shifts, those changes are good and needed for each of us to be our best selves.
I still love my Friday Night-ers and cherish every Friday night we can manage.
But church isn't just Friday nights, it is also mid mornings with homeschooling moms. Church is late night "Let's do a Mom's night out" and end up on a porch drinking hot water until midnight. Church is including "young" people in our daily lives. Church is dinner with the most wonderful people we know. Church is gardening. Sacred is the space we take to connect on Facebook with our beloveds far away. Precious is laying in the sun reading a book while my babies imagine and build Legos around me. Snuggling on the couch with my husband watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel or Schitt's Creek and laughing so hard our cheeks hurt is Holy, Holy, Holy.
God is not just in the ceiling.
God is in it all with us.
Listen, dearlings, find your people. Find them wherever they reside. Find them in the midst of their messy ridiculous lives. In the midst of yours. Meet them there. Be together with food and drink and REALNESS. Be together in the joy and the good times, be together in the hard impossible moments, be together in the sorrow and the pain, be together as much as you can.
And when there are seasons you are not together, let it be known that it is okay. Let it remain good and holy that there is space and time for other things, for life to get crazy, for priorities to shift or get mixed up or to change completely. Let it be good, unended even if it isn't the same.
Love them. Love your people, even when you're lost in your own stuff. Love them in person, covering them with hugs and words. Love them on Facebook and Instagram (and all those other platforms I totally know about), comment on their beautiful photos and big moments shared into the inter-webs. Love them from afar with messages and letters full of your adoration. Love them so well. And let yourself be loved by them.
It is small group.
It is church.
As long as you are loving others? God is in it with you. Even if you don't like God or Church or Churchy people (Amen). It is holy, sacred space when we worship with our laughter, with our Jon Lyons Margaritas, with our deep honesty, with our stick and poke tattoos, with our belief, with our doubts, , with our tears, with our cuss words, with our pain and suffering, with our tacos, with our love for one another and with all other things.
We lift our hands and declare that THIS IS CHURCH and we will love each other well.