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It’s Palm Sunday, I remembered only this morning. This season of Lent has passed me by, seasons do that sometimes. My baby girl is three weeks old today and so we did what we do, we took her to church.

By the time we dashed into the school gym through the pouring rain, everyone dressed with their teeth brushed, I was fully expecting someone to meet us at the door with a medal. “Here! You made it! Congratulations!” So I became ridiculous and greeted every other mother with a babe in arms with dead-serious props: “You made it, good for you! Good for us! Look at us, we’re doing it!”

I never really want to go to church. I just don’t. I’d rather stay home in my jammies and have a lazy Sunday. I like podcasts and books. I have a lot of weirdness about the Church as a whole, too: questions and accusations or frustrations, perhaps. I’m just built that way, some of us are. And I will choose quiet over crowds any day. But every Sunday that I push through that, I never regret it, I’m always to glad I actually got ready and put my children in the car and we went to church to remember that we are the church. I am always so thankful that I went – so thankful for the chance to pray for a friend and for familiar faces, for singing and teenagers in buffalo check shirts, for Sunday school and loud kids, for the way we stand to read the Scriptures in declaration over each other.

I think someday when I am old, I will conjure up the sight of us in the fourth or fifth row on the right hand side just to see us on these imperfect Sundays. I’ll see my gigantic husband delicately twirling our three-year-old in the aisle as she dances to the hymns and the anthems alike. I’ll see him lifting her easily up into his arms, how her flowered dress hung over his plaid-shirted arm and she stuck her chubby arms up in the sky like all the grown-ups around her, singing “hall-le-lu-yay!” and how she leaned out of his arms three times to kiss me SMACK right on the lips and then grin. I’ll see myself swaying with a sleeping baby at my breast, rhythmically patting her bum with my left hand, my right holding the hand of a tall and sensitive six-year-old boy who sings along to the songs. I’ll see my eldest daughter with her BFF colouring at our feet, turning the provided picture of a leper rejoicing into a couple of chicks with carefully designed clothes on and black crayon eyelashes, praising God. I’ll see how we were back and forth up the aisles at least three times with someone who needs to pee or nurse. I’ll see our friends and the folding chairs, all familiar, how I sang out over my life with my palms wide open.

And I’ll fall in love with my life from that distance, over and over, because I will love the sight of us, distracting and distracted and yet somehow doing it, the thick of our life together. I will see myself singing the words of the Psalms into my babies’ hair, I’ll see how we touched each of them, rubbing their backs, brushing their hair off their foreheads, holding their hands, loving them is just as much a part of our worship as anything else.

Hosanna in the highest. We’re not a liturgical church but I’m a liturgical woman. I always long for liturgy on the big days like this, I want the big church-y words and communion and prayers, the same every year. But my people are the school-gym dwellers, the flag-wavers, the “God has a word for you” ones and so I stay, I’ll always stay.

I spent much of the sermon in the mothers’ nursing room. I used to wonder why I bothered going to church when so much of my time was spent in the hallways with a fussy baby or toddler. But then I realised that this is part of church, too, the way that we talk in the halls, the way we sit on scratchy old couches in the staff room of the elementary school nursing without covers on, the way we sway while we talk. If I came to church just for the sermons, I would have left long ago.

But I admit that sometimes I go to church just to sing. I love to sing. I’m not a snob either. I have friends who poo-poo anything that’s not a deeply and rightly theological hymn, not me. I love the hymns and I love the big hairy worship anthems, I love singing Jesus-is-my-boyfriend songs and Scripture songs, I love simplistic choruses and I love when they play the piano and tell us to just pray to ourselves and the way that the melodies of our own mouths rise up, I’ll sing in the tongues I received as an eight-year-old.

Great is thy faithfulness, our Father and our friend.

It was a wonderful sermon this morning. Brian heard the whole thing, lucky duck, and he said that sermons like that remind him why he’s given his life to this, why we believe, why it matters. Maybe that’s what good teaching does, it gives us language for our minds for what our hearts already know or suspect.

This is what we heard: There is nothing against us or in us that can stop us from clinging to Jesus, from turning to redemption, over and over, turning again and again. And whatever happened on the cross, however we impose meaning and narrative and metaphors onto it, however we try to explain or understand it, this is the truest truth of it all: it was enough. The cross was enough and is enough, we are only responding to the abundance of redemption.

Hand me a palm branch, the King is coming.

 

photo via lightstock. used with permission.

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  • Jory Micah

    I would rather stay home in my pj’s too, but I am always glad I went to church! 😉

  • Gah. Yes. Thanks.

  • Laurie

    Your writing speaks to my soul, Sarah. My babies are grown and have left us with an empty nest, but,yes, I do remember them as babes worshiping (or sleeping) during church. And Joe and I seeking the face of the Saviour. Hand me a palm, too.

  • I identify with so much of what you said here: the singing part (I love ALL THE SONGS too), the family part (my daughter has Asperger’s and gets very anxious if the sermon is too interactive, so sometimes worship just means supporting her), the “so glad I came” part. We even sit in the same spot as you do in church — often a little stunned that we made it there alive. 🙂 Thank you and bless you.

  • Valerie

    I love this post. Made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I’ll take one of those palms too! Hosanna!

  • Sarah @Catholic History Nerd

    This is beautiful – fellowship on scratchy old couches and swaying to familiar songs are some of my strongest childhood memories of church.
    Also my mom spending half of each Sunday Mass pacing in the lobby with a baby, and how she would light up when the couple in the pew ahead of us turned around as they were leaving to compliment her on a parenting job well done. So congratulations! You did it, and with a newborn no less! Happy Palm Sunday.

  • April Hunter

    This resonates with me Sarah….I am a church girl at heart and no matter what mood Sunday finds me in, there is no other place I’d rather be than my imperfect messy church. I appreciate what you said about Church being more than the sermon. I hold a space every Sunday morning in the church creche for parents to drink tea and chat while the under 3’s play and I find it’s a brilliant time. Just a question though…..you mentioned nursing while worshiping, then also nursing in the “nursing room” I have to admit I struggle with mums having to go to a nursing room to nurse, or to nurse in church covered up. The only place I was ever told to cover up nursing was in a church I was visiting and it made me feel so incredible hurt and ashamed. I’m not trying to criticise your church but just wondered what your take on that issue is.

    • Oh, that’s too bad, April! No, no big thing. People can do either. Some nurse in church, some in the nursing room, I do both depending on what I feel like.

      • April Hunter

        Yeah I think the mother’s preference, and having a place to go so the mother feels more comfortable is absolutely fine, and I know for many mothers knowing they’ll have the haven of another room to nurse while their still sort of getting the hang of feeding, or for whatever reason is a great idea. I guess I just always worry if it becomes a place you’re expected to go for the comfort of others!

  • Amen amen, the king is coming

  • Laura Shook

    So beautiful! I love the picture you paint of your sweet family worshipping together. This is a picture of the families in our church and I love it! Thank you for sharing! Happy Easter to you all!

  • BritW

    I love this. I don’t attend church, for various and complicated reasons, but this makes me want to try again. I know it’s the missing piece in our young family.

    • Elizabeth

      Step in this Sunday, it sounds to this stranger that the Lord is calling you to him.

  • Brett FISH Anderson

    Love it Sarah, great one. Busy reading your book [the first one!] at the moment and wishing in the light of this post that you could read mine that has just come out – ‘i, church’ – to get a response of how you see how i see church, cos i imagine it would not be all that different… thankx for continuing to inspire and love and champion the church and do it all with such gentleness, love and grace – you are influencing so many…

    keep on

    love brett fish

    https://brettfish.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/book-launch-i-church-the-teaser/

  • Bart

    Beautiful, Sarah. I’m loving our return to liturgical roots and mixing in with the beautiful music of today. I’m loving also the simpleness of our coming together. Our imperfections obvious but who cares….we are worshipping the Savior. He is our King and we want Him to know it with our hearts and hands lifted to Him!!! Happy Easter…..Resurrection Day!

  • Katie Noah Gibson

    I love this, Sarah. We are the church and it’s always worth it to be together, even when it is so messily human (and it always is). I didn’t grow up in a liturgical church, but I love to wave those palm branches as much as I love to sing those church-camp songs. Amen.

  • Andrea

    Your writing glows when you write about church. That you love the church is a blessed encouragement. Keep on.

  • munchmom

    This was me, yesterday. My 1.5 & 3 Year old boys couldn’t handle the service so we went to the family room. My little dudes, both feeling slightly yucky, snuggled in and relaxed while we listened to the sermon over the speakers, and I remembered that they need this, they need to know that the house of the lord has a place for fussy little boys, little girls who color, and Mommas who cry ( I cry a lot at church, it’s totally embarrassing)

  • Exquisite.

    I always feel that there is a rush of creativity and words after the birth of a new baby. Clearly, this is true for you too. Keep writing. Sarah Bessey. You have a gift.

  • Jen

    Oh my heart. Bless you.

  • Lauren Ward

    This speaks to my heart in ways I can’t express. I’ve been struggling with various aspects of church, but your storytelling and way of finding beauty in humanity moves me so much!

  • Beautiful words.

    “I never really want to go to church… But every Sunday that I push through that, I never regret it.” Man I get this.

  • We sit in the fourth or fifth row from the front, on the right hand side, too. Distracted and distracting: THERE, even if it was ‘only just’ in time, and I have no mascara on, and my son has no shoes. Jesus is enough. Hosanna in the highest.

  • I too love the singing at church! great reflections Sarah! PS thinking back to a year ago- to the Faith & Culture Writers Conference as we near our 2015 event! so great to have you there last year! – cornelia

  • Nicolette Choi

    This completely has me in tears as I can relate 100% and it brought me so much comfort. Thank you for sharing this beautifully written post!!

  • Jenny Friend

    No one writes like you. Your thoughts resonate deep within me. Thank you.

  • Nika

    What a lovely thought. Thank you so much for sharing and inspiring me.

    All the best,
    Nika

  • Kristin S

    Oh, you and everyone else who loves this post will love Jen Hatmaker’s upcoming book For the Love. Totally addresses this very subject.

  • Karen

    I think we have a tendency to over complicate things. While there is so much deep deep theology in what happened at the crucifixion, the truth you highlighted here is enough to chew on forever. It is enough. He is enough. For that we will eternally rejoice!
    http://www.switchbacks.org

  • pastordt

    My favorite Palm Sunday piece EVER. Thank you, thank you. Brings back so many memories of tending little ones in worship.

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  • Elizabeth Lehman

    beautifully said… like you, i sometimes wish i was at home on sunday morning… but it’s in church that i recognize over and over again how imperfect i am and that god loves loves loves me despite that. some sundays it’s a hymn, sometimes the sermon, sometimes liturgy, or scripture… each week i am i feel a return to god that doesn’t happen without church.

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