Happy Friday the Thirteenth!
Thanks for indulging me this week to share my heart in some observations about categories of life that affect each one of us in 2018 as I have sorted through thoughts and ponderings and perspectives in honor of ending five decades on planet Earth.
So today you all get to jump in on the last one for the week as I muse on the Church and what it means to me.
As I have done all week, I pray for God to speak something clear through the muddle of thoughts swirling in my brain and give you a word of hope and encouragement today.
First off, I love church.
I love the organized, local body of Christ church and I love the universal Church of believers through the ages and around the world.
I do know for some there are woundings from betrayals within the walls by leaders or people in the pews and this breaks my heart if it has driven anyone away from the fellowship of believers.
While individuals have caused harm and I do not love that this has happened, I am speaking of the Spirit-filled, Christ-following community of believers who have made up the Church since Christ commissioned the first congregation on a hill outside Jerusalem and who wait for His return.
I love the fellowship of believers gathered in a variety of churches I have visited across this country on vacations…
I love the Church in all denominations…
from pipe organ led hymns and a minister in a long robe to a worship team made up of kids who look like they just rolled out of bed and a pastor in torn jeans.
I love the experiences the Lord has blessed me with to worship with the Maasai in a concrete block building jam-pack full of bodies or sitting out under the blazing sun with the same saints while church ran for three hours and ladies served us glass bottles of Coke and Orange Crush. No ice…of course…because…Kenya.
I have loved loving Jesus with the believers in Cuba and in Mexico where, even though I should not have been able to understand a word since I do not speak Spanish, I felt more at home than I do in other places right in my own town.
I love the words of those who were the Church in generations past that stir my heart to love Jesus more authentically in my day…Oswald Chambers, Andrew Murray, Charles Spurgeon, Madame Guyon, Francois Fenelon, Hannah Whiteall Smith…Paul, John, Peter…those who belonged to the True Church of Jesus Christ. Those who spoke into the cultural paralysis of their time here and urged believers to worship in spirit and truth.
My most precious memories of my dad are leaning against the sleeve of his suit on Sunday mornings and having him slip me a sour ball candy out of his pocket when the sermon went on a little longer than my attention.
I can still hear my mom and my aunt singing loud and an octave higher than my voice has ever been able to reach every single time the strains of How Great Thou Art kick in during some service.
Though we sit in padded chairs instead of pews now at our church, there isn’t a Sunday I don’t remember three little Reimers spread out across our laps or feel the echo of a young arm looped through mine as I take sermon notes.
And just saying, anytime I hear The Old Rugged Cross it is a guaranteed two-tissue minimum experience for me.
When some newscaster or politician sneers as he or she says something about “the Evangelical Christians” like we are some kind of freak show, I respond in my gut with the same kind of Momma Bear crazy I get when someone picks on my family.
Because the Church is my people.
Imperfect? You bet.
Quirky? Then some and more.
Frustrating? Quite often.
Cliquish? Yep…we often migrate towards the ones we feel more comfortable with.
But all those qualities?
You find them in every group of human beings, every social club, every office, every playground and around every dinner table.
And yes, there are those who have gone out in the name of Christ or the name of His Church who have done damage…and continue to do damage…even under the guise of “new revelation” about His Word in our day and age.
But the Church…the True Church.. is different because in the Church of Jesus Christ we are all brought together with all our tendencies and wiring, all of our short-comings and flaws, all of our misconceptions and misunderstandings…all brought into unity under One Head.
And that head?
It wore a Crown of Thorns.
It bent low as it gasped for breath and looked through eyes that squinted through dried blood and asked for forgiveness for all of us.
All of us who love Him and all of us who don’t.
The Church of Jesus Christ is made up of anyone who recognizes that He paid the price for our sins and by His sacrifice, we are made right with God.
HIs Church is made up of those who will receive this.
I love the Church because Christ loves the Church and He gave His life for us.
If you have received Him…you belong.
The Great Belonging is through Jesus Christ.
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
Ephesians 2: 19-22