Sunday, July 27, 2008

Kyrkan, Kirken, Kirkjan

We honeymooned in Sweden, Norway and Iceland. Of course, this is a silly idea for two students employed part-time. The U.S. dollar isn't exactly holding its own and Scandinavia has an expensive reputation. But we've learned that you are allowed to be foolish and extravagant when planning a honeymoon. People will look the other way and say lovely and supportive things like, "This is just the time to take a trip like that!"

Our days were filled with buffet breakfasts, coffee on the go, tiny rental cars, people watching, hiking in the rain, waterfalls, geysers, glaciers and fjords. We are those people you see in museums and on tours. We've studied up, read every photo's caption and ask for the audio guide headphones. If there's a tour guide, I'm usually in front, asking the dorky questions.

Some of Matt's greatest entertainment came from watching me encounter ancient churches and the congregations of quaint towns. I circle the grounds, take in the view and touch the foundation's stones. I take in every detail of the pulpit's wood and the choir loft's staircase and finger through hymnals. One afternoon, our boat pulled into a small village in the fjords just long enough to board a few more people. The captain shared that the town hosted a famous Stav Church. Matt stood quietly amused as I hustled awkwardly around the bow, searching the skyline for a steeple and wishing I could go find it.

My heart broke a bit when I would stand in some churches with so much spiritual grandeur and history, unable to find an invitation to worship or sign of activity during the week. One Saturday night, we slept in the shadows of a beautiful country church, but there were no bells in the morning or people pouring inside.

Churches are historical sites for so many places and cultures, but is a church still a church when it merely invites tourists in from buses for pictures without a word of proclamation or community?
If others are wooed by these homes of God's mystery like I am, there is good reason to believe they are not finished speaking to God's mission in this world today. They are more than museums and photo stops. They are more than signs of yesterday's Christian life because there are prayers said in their walls by those passing through. The mystery lives there because people from all corners of the globe are still curious about God's house.

May we be the church by holding up the mystery with open doors and words proclaimed.

1 comment:

Rev Scott said...

We honeymooned in Germany and had a very similar experience - wonderful pictures, fascinating history and some really disappointing realizations about the fall of the European church. We're definitely living in a post-Christendom age, aren't we?

Sounds like it was a wonderful trip, though - if you guys are like my Kris and me, you'll have memories to last a lifetime. Congratulations!