In this post, Rob Lewis shares his vision for the newly reconstituted Souls on Mission.
Taste and see that the Lord is good.
This invitation from Psalm 34 suggests the powerful immediacy of experiencing God’s beneficence. We don’t apprehend God in the abstract, but through the senses.
Our church is full of sensory stimuli that demonstrate God’s tangible goodness. We have good coffee, good wine, good music, and good art, and we incorporate all these into our liturgy. Not because we believe that God wants his children to enjoy only the best, or that we merit his favor, but because they are a continual reminder that God is good, and that the created order exists as something good in relation to God. God’s goodness is being poured all over creation.
And it’s God’s specific goodness in the person of Christ that draws us into the Nave, and then sends us out again into world. Our worship, energized by all its liturgical elements, symbolizes this rhythm of worship and witness, gathering and scattering.
For me, it always starts with coffee preparation, the ritual of grinding and brewing, smelling and tasting. Coffee is the gateway drink that helps wake us up to the more consequential elements of the Eucharist.
I roll the coffee carts into the Nave under Joel Sheesley’s sprawling mural, inspired by the 12th century apse mosaic of San Clemente in Rome. As described by Matt Milliner, the mural’s “medieval Christ is transposed onto an Illinois landscape, complete with a distant Chicago skyline under a Midwestern sky of Byzantine gold. A Middle Eastern Christ with a lamb flung over his shoulders stands beneath the tree of life teeming with suburban squirrels and birds. Below him is a water-gushing rock that frames the doorway, so that every parishioner, as if through a waterfall, walks through their baptismal commitment as they reenter the church, experiencing a weekly mortification.”
And a weekly revivification at the altar, as we partake of the bread and wine, and are nourished by Christ’s body and blood. As we turn around from the altar, we see the mural. We see Christ with whom we have just been communing, at the apex of creation, from which the river of life is flowing. And on which we are carried out. We enter God’s sanctuary hungry and empty so that God can fill us to overflowing into the need of the world around us.
Our newly reconstituted Souls on Mission recognizes and celebrates the good work God is doing in and through all the souls at All Souls. As we are revitalized by God’s goodness manifested in so many ways in our community, we take that goodness out. We carry with us the real presence of Jesus, revealed to us through the liturgy. Because we have tasted and seen, and come to know Christ in the interior of the church, we recognize and encounter him everywhere in the world, and in everyone to whom we give a cup of water, a piece of bread, a wool jacket, a warm embrace. “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’