Take Me to Church
On my way to the airport last night, a popular song came on by the artist Hozier. In the song, a sultry male voice sings about worshipping his lover’s body for she “takes him to church.” Now, whenever I hear this song, I can’t help but also recall the story author and speaker Nadia Bolz-Weber tells of a praise band in Germany offering a rendition of this song as a way of welcoming her as a theological speaker and church planter. I’ll never forget her emphatic facial expressions when she described to our audience in Iowa how this song was “absolutely not about church.”
It’s funny how narratives get woven together, intrinsically linked. Because of my drive yesterday, I might now also think of this trip I’m currently on when I hear that song. While I’m not “on my way to church,” I am en route to a funeral for a family member who died tragically. And yesterday morning, I did take myself to church. And in a couple hours, I’ll be sitting in a basement hall where many addicts and alcoholics have gathered before. Unfortunately, this occasion is not to celebrate days or years of sobriety, but instead to remember my uncle who lost the battle with a lifelong struggle with addiction.
But backing up, I’d like to take you to church.
Every Sunday, or most, I drop my daughter off in the nursery at St. Paul Lutheran where I serve and then I go meet with the child care coordinator. Yesterday, Andi wasn’t by herself, but instead had the treat of our Associate Pastor’s kids in the nursery with her. Just before 9 am worship, a church member came by to take Pastor Sara’s kids into church. Turns out, Andi wanted to go with them too. So, when this church member approached me to see if it would be okay to take my three-year-old into the sanctuary, my heart melted. My mind has been elsewhere ever since I heard the news about my dad’s brother. As much as I’ve tried, I probably haven’t been the most present parent. This kindhearted woman giving my daughter some extra attention felt like just the kind of healing balm you long for sometimes.
“Take me to church,” Hozier sings, straight-faced but passionate. “This is holy work,” he adds. The pop artist sings in praise of perfection, paying homage to desire; the “worship” of embracing his beloved. But as I sang along on I-80 west last night, I thought about something else. I reflected on the church of human frailties and all that broad topic encompasses. I thought of my limitations as a mother and a pastor, especially when I’m distracted by very personal grief. I thought of my uncle and all the wounds he carried, psychic and physical, and how he longed for them to be removed by a presence beyond himself. And to top it all off, I also thought of my three-year-old and her honest request of some newfound friends. “Hey,” she pleaded, when the other pastor’s kids’ chaperone came for them, “take me with you. I want to go to church.”
Thanks for Reading.