Went to church today. (The service was in English, fyi.)
I arrive about five minutes after the service has started, so I slide into an empty seat in the back, in a row between a couple and a guy.
The seats are crammed together, side-by-side. The chairs look like they are from Ikea; I have come to know the Burbank, California store quite well.
It’s a bit awkward. I’m sitting next to two complete strangers. Uneasiness ensues, I suppose, when you’re especially sitting in such close proximity to someone you don’t know. I notice that I’m literally less than an inch away from the man to my left because I can feel when he shifts in his seat. I could slide my chair to my right maybe two inches towards the couple, but I realize it could not be done soundlessly (or indiscernibly).
So I sit still, quietly, listening to the service. In my peripheral, I can see that the guy to my left is wearing jeans and a T-shirt. It is 35 degrees outside, you’re just wearing a T-shirt?! I am donning three layers and a scarf, and then there’s my coat, which is draped over my chair. I wonder for a second where he is from – this is, after all, a Christian worship service given in English, within the city of Prague.
I realize I’ve taken the program that was sitting on the empty chair, which was probably his.
“Sorry, this was yours, right?” I ask quietly.
“It’s okay, you can keep it.”
As I turn my head I notice for the first time that he’s blonde. Blue eyes. Looks older. Mid-30s, more or less. Looks a lot like an older version of Ryan Gosling, maybe what he’ll look like in about 7 or 8 years.
I feel like a stranger in this place. Haven’t had this feeling in awhile. The steps into unfamiliar territory are now commonplace of late. After a few moments, the outsider feeling goes away and it’s just a ‘newcomer’ vibe. Church is church. Believers are believers. Believers are compelled by faith to worship, wherever they are in the world.
It is quiet except for the words of the pastor, which are clear with the wireless mic but not bellowing – ah, my favorite kind of volume. My stomach begins growling and continues to grow louder. A wave of awkwardness. I shift in my seat, hoping my hunger will cease to eke out audibly. I smile slightly, laughing a little bit inside.
We sit there, our Ikea chairs crammed against each other, as the pastor discusses the offerings, the animal sacrifices referenced in Leviticus, the place that only high priests could enter, and even then, it was only once a year. All this I’ve heard before. But I enjoy listening, a new reminder, a refreshing thing to hear. I don’t find sermons to be that tiring when they’re on familiar Biblical passages anymore. It’s a bit different each time. You’re a different person when you hear about Ruth when you’re still in high school, as opposed to when you’re a young professional and you’ve experienced more obstacles along the way. The Bible has not changed over the years; you’ve changed, what it means to you has changed.