Book Review-Searching for Sunday

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Searching for Sunday
Rachel Held Evans

Emotional Response-4

Scholarly Response-4

My husband surprised me by ordering this book for me after seeing it sitting in my amazon cart. I started reading this book the day it arrived, and I read it very quickly. It is easily readable and still contains so much depth. In the forward, Glennon Doyle Melton says, “Searching for Sunday helped me forgive the church and myself and fall in love with God all over again” (ix). With such high praise, who wouldn’t want to keep reading? I would agree with this statement even though I’m not at a place where I need to forgive the church. I love the church with all its bumps and bruises. This book helped me love the church even more.

This book is organized around seven sacraments. I appreciate the way she names the sacraments. This Protestant can get behind seven sacraments when they are described in this way. “The church tells us we are beloved (baptism). The church tells us we are broken (confession). The church tells us we are commissioned (holy orders). The church feeds us (communion). The church welcomes us (confirmation). The church anoints us (anointing of the sick). The church unites us (marriage)” (xvii).

Not surprisingly, my favorite sacrament remains communion. I love communion. One of the things I miss most is serving communion. I love presiding at the table. I love inviting all to Jesus’ table. I love inviting people to remember. I love serving communion by intinction to a faith community I know. I miss calling people by name as I say this is the cup of salvation or this is Christ’s blood shed for you. For now, I receive the elements from the hands of someone who doesn’t know me, and it is enough because God knows me.

I read the section on confirmation the night before seeing nine youth I did not know confirm their faith. We still do not know each other. And yet, we are bound together in the promises we made and our love of Jesus. I can faithfully say I will support them on their faith journey because I believe in the church universal and the brother and sisterhood of all of God’s children.

My least favorite sacrament, as presented in this book, was marriage. I want marriage to be open to all who love each other and until it is I struggle with seeing it as a sacrament. Not everyone gets married, and that makes this sacrament feel as if it is reserved for only some. (The same argument could be made for Holy Orders, however, I believe by commissioning mission trip participants, blessing those who serve, and thanking everyone who takes seriously the call to love all and serve all-the Holy Orders are open for everyone.) I worry that calling marriage a sacrament encourages people to stay in hurtful or abusive relationships. Also, I worry about feelings of guilt or shame when a marriage ends-sometimes without the consent of one spouse. Maybe, if marriage had been earlier in the book, I might have enjoyed it more. I wanted the book to end with the same energy I felt for the other sacraments. Sadly, I didn’t feel it.

I recommend this book for those wanting a new look at the sacraments. I recommend this book to anyone who hasn’t found a church home. Read this book before you stop your search. I recommend this book for those who love the church and those who wish they could love the church.

When talking about baptism, she shares this language, “I am a beloved child of God and I renounce anything or anyone who says otherwise” (20). I thought this would be a great confirmation, church retreat, or worship activity. We could write down those things that “say otherwise” and then burn them in fire or dissolve them in water. It is a way to give the “demons” to God and see ourselves as God’s beloved.

In the sacrament of confession, there is a chapter entitled, “What We Have Done”. Here, we read a litany of our sins and our triumphs. I appreciate that we aren’t excused from the sins of our ancestors in the faith. They are our sins too. I appreciate in the thanksgiving for triumphs that we are thanked for doing the right thing. One thing that would have made it even more powerful would be seeing someone named as both a sinner and one who has triumphed. It would remind us that we all sin and we all have the potential to do “the right thing even when it was hard” (78).

She shares the story of St. Lydia’s (130). This church meets for dinner and worship each week. I wonder about the possibility of recreating this modern version of the early church in other places.

She has a great description of anointing. “Ultimately, anointing is an acknowledgement. It’s a way to speak to someone who is suffering, and without words or platitudes or empty solutions, say, this is a big deal, this matters, I’m here. In a world of cure-alls and quick fixes, true healing may be one of the most powerful and countercultural gifts the church has to offer the world, if we surrender our impulse to cure, if only we let love do its slow, meandering work” (211).

“Death is something empires worry about, not something gardeners worry about. It’s certainly not something resurrection people worry about” (225). Great thought with all the studies lately saying the church is dying.

The author identifies herself as part of the Millennial generation. I’m a little too old to be included in her generation and yet I found her words to ring true for me. I wonder if those from other generations would agree too? “I explained that when our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender friends aren’t welcome at the table, then we don’t feel welcome either, and that not every young adult gets married or has children, so we need to stop building our churches around categories and start building them around people. And I told them that, contrary to popular belief, we can’t be won back with hipper worship bands, fancy coffee shops, or pastors who wear skinny jeans. We millennials have been advertised to our entire lives, so we can smell b.s. from a mile away. The church is the last place we want to be sold another product, the last place we want to be entertained. Millennials aren’t looking for a hipper Christianity, I said. We’re looking for a truer Christianity, a more authentic Christianity. Like every generation before ours and every generation after, we’re looking for Jesus–the same Jesus who can be found in the strange places he’s always been found: in bread, in wine, in baptism, in the Word, in suffering, in community, and among the least of these” (xiv).

“Something about communion triggers our memory and helps us see things as they really are. Something about communion opens our eyes to Jesus at the table” (132).

“On days when I contemplate leaving Christianity, I have wondered what I would do without communion. Certainly nonbelivers can care for one another and make one another food. But it is Christians who recognize this act as sacrament, as holy. It is Christians who believe bread can satisfy not only physical hunger, but spiritual and emotional hunger, too, and whose collective memory brings Jesus back to life in every breaking of the break and pouring of the wine, in all the tastes, smells, and sounds God himself loves” (133).
“We have the choice, every day, to join in the revelry, to imbibe the sweet wine of undeserved grace, or to pout like Jonah, argue fairness like the vineyard employees, resent our own family like the prodigal’s older brother. At its best, the church administers the sacraments by feeding, healing, forgiving, comforting, and welcoming home the people God loves. At its worst, the church withholds the sacraments in an attempt to lock God in a theology, a list of rules, a doctrinal statement, a building. But our God is in the business of transforming ordinary things into holy things, scraps of food into feasts and empty purification vessels into fountains of fine wine. This God knows his way around the world, so there’s no need to fear, no need to withhold, no need to stake a claim. There’s always enough-just taste and see. There’s always and ever enough” (156-157).

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