We have heard a lot about the church in the last few weeks. Lengthy discussions have been carried out over locking up the church. Many are angry that they cannot come to church in person. As churches begin to reopen their doors, many changes must be made that will make church services unlike anything in the past. It will not be the same, at least for now. That makes many upset. Singing carries issues farther than talking. Shared hymnals can cause problems. Even something as simple as opening a door can be potentially serious.
All of this has certainly caused us to rethink church. What is the church? Why do we go to church? How do we worship as a church in a way that is safe and protected for everyone? What does the church even do? Is the church necessary?
Today’s scripture helps me to begin in the search for these answers, and I hope it begins to help you as well.
1:15 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason
1:16 I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.
1:17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him,
1:18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints,
1:19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.
1:20 God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,
1:21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.
1:22 And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church,
1:23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Do you hear anything about the church? I do hear an intent and purpose. Look closer. Listen to what is being said.
Christ is above all – ruler, guide, all powerful. He has immeasurable greatness of his power that is given to those who follow him. And his power changes things. He is the head of it all, and that includes the church. The church is his body – his vehicle for doing his work. The church is about wisdom and growth and seeking but it is also about going and living and loving.
Maybe we have been shut up in the walls of a building too long and have forgotten that to be the church is to live for Christ. Maybe we have gotten so comfortable in our pews that we haven’t allowed ourselves to follow Christ when we leave those pews. It could be that we have grown so accustomed to the way things have always been that comfort was all we were seeking. Could it be that we have made the church more about us than about Christ? Could it be that we have made church what we wanted it to be – comfortable for us to sit with a group of people that look like us and agree with us? Maybe, just maybe this is our time to be the church.
IF we are the body of Christ, that seems to be a movement forward – a carrying out into the world. It seems to me that this would be living out the vision and mission that Jesus lived as an example. I do remember him gathering in the place of worship, but I don’t remember that being the only place he went. Actually it seems like he spent more time with those that were discarded and forgotten than those that claimed to be devout. He spent more time loving those on the outside that had never experienced love before.
Do not misunderstand me – there is great value in gathering. Jesus did it. He taught in the place of worship and spent time there. We gather to gain knowledge, we gather to seek wisdom, we gather to pray together, we gather to worship. All of those are vital for our spiritual lives. We gather in community. We gather in resources and gifts to carry further the cause of Christ. But this is a gathering. This is not the end all, be all. Gathering is only part of the equation. And I think that we have gotten comfortable with gathering only because it makes us feel like we are doing what we should do – it is a box to check off on our holy list.
But what if gathering is to prepare us for something more? What if we have been taught how to worship and now we are being called out to worship in the world? What if we have been given what we need to go out and serve? What if we are being called to live for Christ as a unified body that isn’t in a building right this moment? What if we are so worried about not gathering in a building because it is the only time we serve? Could it be that we have been called out for times like these? Could it be that we have been equipped to be God’s people right here and right now? Could it be that we are to serve faithfully until we gather again? And might we be changed when we do gather to value serving in and out of the building? Maybe it will make us uncomfortable enough that we don’t get too comfortable when we return to the building. That might just be an important gift in it all.
The writer of Ephesians helps us to understand that in knowing Christ better, our heart is enlightened, we are given hope, and we are given a spirit of revelation and wisdom. We have been given what we need. Are we serving with a heart for Christ? Are we filled with hope? Do we live in wisdom?
We are in this together, church. And I mean more than Trinity. I mean THE church. We are all in this together. We have been given all the gifts we need. We have been strengthened for service. We have been given courage to do as Christ calls. Until we can safely gather in this building, it does not mean you are free from being the church – unless you feel that being in this building is the only time you are a follower of Christ. You are actually given a great responsibility to seek to serve in this time. You are called to encourage, pray, study, and above all else – love like never before – not from a comfy pew but out in a world that is starving for Christ.
We will gather again in a building…and when we do, I pray that God has so filled us with his power that we are even more eager to go back out. I pray that our pews are no longer comfortable and our worship reminds us that we are in this together, for Christ. When we return, I pray we return changed, challenged, and called.