As an English major, I learned to avoid the passive voice.
My high school teachers, followed by college professors, taught me to opt for active verbs over variations of "to be." Working for the college newspaper drilled the same rule into my mind. Even now, when I'm proofreading the church's newsletter or typing an everyday email, I pay attention to the verbs.
The only times I tend to put away my red pen of revision are in the reading of Scripture and the singing of hymns. If a Scripture verse includes the passive voice, I assume that God is speaking outside of my grammatical "rules." If a congregational hymn uses some form of "to be," I do not flinch.
This upcoming Sunday, worshippers at First UMC of West Point will join our voices in one familiar line of the passive voice:
I once was lost but now am found.
The next-to-last line of the first verse of "Amazing Grace" is one that many of us know by heart. We associate it with Jesus' parable of the lost son and celebrate our glorious returns "home" with him.
Yet "being found" is sometimes hard for us. Simply being is a challenge when we crave activity. Simply being goes against the "grammatical rules" of active verbs ingrained in us. "Being found" means admitting our need for the searching eye of God.
I recently discovered a sermon by The Rt. Rev. Jake Owensby, who serves as the Episcopal bishop of Western Louisiana, that led me to think a lot about our "found-ness." The title was, "Where God Finds Us," which startled me. I had recently talked in one of my sermons about where we find God in the world, and here was a sermon on being found by God.
Bishop Owensby's reflections restored balance to my perspective. We search for God. God also searches for us. We find glimpses of God in the world. We are found by God.
It is easy for churches to live in the active verbs: find people, invite them to church, and grow the membership. But do we ever stop to ask where God is finding people? Do we move out of action and into being to ask how people are being found instead of how we can find them?
The Tin Lizzie Cafe has become a place of God's 'found-ness' for me.
A local diner along the highway, Tin Lizzie has become my favorite spot for studying and writing papers. There is plenty of food. My coffee cup is always full. A long table at the floor's center welcomes anyone who wants to sit and chat. The staff checks in frequently to see if the customers are "good:" if all our needs are satisfied. I always leave with my body and soul nourished--and feeling found by God in the presence of people who are truly "present."
The Tin Lizzie brings me back to the passive verb of "Amazing Grace"--of being found by God.
Where is God finding you these days?
Are you as willing to 'be found' as you are to do the 'finding'?
all good things to each of you,