Church, temple, synagogue, mosque, hall, and numerous other words describe our places of worship. I grew up in a Catholic home in the United States, so for me, the word, "Church," is the one that first comes to mind, so that's the one I'll use.
The word itself comes from the Greek Kyriakós oíkos, meaning house of the Lord. It eventually became Church as it migrated into Germanic languages, Old English and then into modern English. It is the most common place to go and worship on Sunday for the majority of Christians in the west. Typically, such buildings are seen in the light of being holy ground or exceptionally sacred in some way. Clergy, regardless of the denomination, are usually specialized clerical professionals. Meaning that their sole 'job' is being a priest or pastor. People gather and listen to what the priest, pastor or guest speaker has to say and often there is an expectation of donating money and some element of commemoration of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. Some of these commemorations involve rituals that invoke the real presence of Christ (which brings about a spiritual transformation of the common elements of bread and wine) while many are simple commemoration with no deeper meaning. During the course of the service, the speaker, whatever title the hold, tells the congregation how to live their lives, how to apply the scripture to their lives, or will expound on some passage and reflect on its impact in our lives. At the end, the vast majority of attendees go their separate ways and are no different for having been to church than they were the night before. For many, the act of attendance is a social/familial obligation. The clergy will tell you that you are mandated to attend, citing some scripture or another, and will follow that up by telling you that you are obligated to tithe or donate money in the amount of some minimum percentage of your income. The spiritual penalties for ignoring such obligations vary from one denomination to another.
While I do attend church on Sunday mornings, there is another church that I attend daily. That church is the church of the road. What kind of church is this, you ask? Let me tell you about it.
It is a true "house" of God, for God is not contained in one building but is everywhere one may go. God's presence is felt every minute of every day, but His majesty is seen most powerfully in the skies above, both in the daylight and under the starlit skies. No cleric need be concerned with performing a ritual to invoke His presence; He is simply there. Our Heavenly Father, who's spirit infuses all things and surrounds all things, binding them together and connecting them.
The very ground we ride on is itself holy, for it is itself divine. The Catholic Church likes to call itself, "Mother Church." But no organization (led by a bunch of old men, no less) can truly be our mother. Mother Earth is the physical structure of this church, domed by the sky above. She bears us up as we ride along, she takes us high enough to touch the sky itself and takes us deep and low where we can contemplate her mysteries. She is our mother church, and she is ever guiding us and teaching us. She nourishes us as a human organization can only dream of nourishing. She is the Mother Church.
The Bible states that Jesus is our high priest, and being unlimited by space and time, the 'priest' is always celebrating His glorious mass. His sermons change from day to day, and His lessons are most often subtle, requiring us to actively engage in the celebration to understand them. It is in loving and caring for one another that we most intimately encounter Him, and our time on the road challenges us to do this in new ways each and every day.
People gather in the Church of the Road. Everyday. And just like regular church, the vast majority are there out of some obligation imposed upon them by something outside of the spiritual. Just as in regular church, many people form their cliques and wall themselves off from others, only interacting with their fellow churchgoers as necessary. Just like in regular church, many people miss the celebration that is inherent in attending.
The Church of the Road asks no tithe of its members. It imposes no obligation on you to attend. Jesus needs no salary, so He's a fairly undemanding high priest. Because our Heavenly Father needs no money, He has no doctrine of exclusivity. Everything comes from Him anyway, so requiring people to follow in one doctrine or another is pointless to Him. He asks only that His children are kind to one another and to His bride, the Mother Church, which is the very earth herself. Jesus as priest shows us the way to love and to care for others, acts of kindness and love of others being the only sacrifices He asks.
Every time you go out on the road, you are in church. The Church of the Road has no set schedule; you get the sermon of the moment each time you attend. Sometimes, the sermons are uplifting and joyous, as we ride beneath the sun, the moon, and the stars under the clear skies. Other times, the sermons are hard lessons, bringing us challenges to our patience in the form of inclement weather and other motorists who drift into our path.
Each service is unique. Each service speaks to us in a new and unique way. Just as going to church with a focus on social convention and fashion can distract you from why you're actually there, so too can driving encased in the shell of your car. Just as a person in a fancy suit can still fully participate in the celebration, however, drivers of cars can too. But the Church of the Road is best experienced in a 'come as you are' fashion, on two wheels, be they motorized or no, or on foot. Convertibles, T-Tops, and targa roof cars are a very happy medium.
So come to church! If we meet, I will extend to you a warm greeting and will be happy to share in the celebration with you. I hope that you will return the courtesy!
Ride free and true!