There are no stop lights.
I had not noticed this until last week, when I pulled into town after encountering stoplight after stoplight on the trip up highway 24 to the turnoff for Green Mountain Falls. Of course, I did the stoplight dash again today, as I do on many days. Running a little late, battling the moral dilemma of whether or not it is ethical to speed in order to get to church on time(I think not), I approach each intersection of stop-and-go with great anxiety. When the light is red, I sit in irritation, as if the winds of punctuality are refusing to blow in my favor. How dare that little red bulb get in the way of my journey to peace and quiet! This is ridiculous, of course. It is my own darn laziness that has me running a few minutes behind. I let the pace of life keep me up late again, and I let the resulting weariness keep me in bed a few minutes too long. Now it’s a race against the time I wasted.
But in Green Mountain Falls, no such intersections of anxiety exist. I take it slow into town. If I were to rush, I’d be out of town before I’d noticed I was in it. Fifty-five mph would make Green Mountain Falls into about a 5 second experience.
So I was late, which I figured was just one more good reason to sit in that sunny back pew.
During our second hymn today, I actually found myself wishing for the elimination of the third verse. I was clear within a few bars that nobody knew the song, and the melody was far too complicated for “pick-it-up-as-you-go-along”. Even the choir seemed to be struggling to find the tune. I eventually stopped singing and just read along, so as not to miss what the hymn might have to say. I smiled at the musical(?) cacophony going on around me. It was painful. And sort of funny.
During the children’s sermon, the pastor asked the kids if they had ever heard of the country of Chile. One boy responded rather matter-of-factly that he has eaten chili, but is pretty sure he’s never been to Chile. The Pastor later reminded us that such an answer might also apply when asked about visiting Turkey.
I was thinking today about the fact that so much of my church experience on these small town Sundays is new or different for me, whether it is the quiet recitation of liturgy, or the singing of the selections that have gone unsung in my previous experiences with the hymnal. I’m sure that as time goes by, I will discover both more differences and more similarities between my life of faith and that of those in that little church. As I walked away today, pondering one particular thing that had made me squirm a bit, I realized that I do not want to be the kind of person that runs away from things that are different, or even from everything I might disagree with. I want to know and experience the love of Christ in all the diversity of his people, in their unique triumphs and failures, in the fascinating particularities of their varying lives.
I want to live my life with ears open to hear everything that he might say, whether in my busy week or on my quirky small town Sundays.