As a small-town pastor, I marvel every day about our church – this unlikely collection of volunteers who allow the love of God to shine through them. Our church looks something like this – When I arrive early on a Sunday morning, the building is empty, locked and dark. I begin the weekly process of resuscitation by opening the shutters and unlocking the doors. The real vibrancy arrives as people drift in. There’s the guy who makes coffee each week, here are a couple of people who baked cookies and cut up fruit for fellowship time following worship. The choir, those impossibly busy people who somehow squeeze in weekly rehearsal time, clamber into the choir loft, eagerly anticipating their anthem.
Dedicated parents and grandparents are organizing paper, scissors, and glue sticks, anxious to share Bible lessons and crafts. The sanctuary hums to life as someone flips on the sound system, another carefully places flowers on our communion table, and some friendly volunteers welcome visitors and regulars alike. The building is brimming with activity now, as neighbors greet one another and weary young mothers grab precious moments with a kindred spirit. Gray-headed seniors lean in for conversation as teenagers casually compare phones and screens.
Before entering the sanctuary, the deacon questions her ability to draw the attention of this noisy, somewhat unruly crowd to the still, small voice of God. There is Good News to share – God has promised to show up, right here, in our little corner of CT, because we are gathered in God’s name.
Good morning! The deacon asserts boldly.
Good morning! The congregation booms in reply.
Peace, one might even say the Spirit, descends upon those gathered, not at all distracted by wriggly babies or bored teenagers. Somehow God meets each one of us, exactly where we are this morning. God is in this place and suddenly – we become the church. We are the people of God, flawed, imperfect, falling very short of the glory of God, yet blessed and renewed by God’s love which welcomes every single one of us. And because God names us the church, the Body of Christ, we can claim that title as well. Together we can endeavor to serve God by sharing God’s love.
That’s church on a Sunday morning.
How does it work on the other days?
- Someone drops by to donate skeins of yarn she found on sale. Less than an hour later an older woman stops by to ask for prayer shawl materials. She leaves, eager to knit and pray for some yet unknown recipient who will receive a reminder of God’s encircling love. The church works when we share.
- Two $50 Visa gift cards arrive in the mail. An out-of-state daughter wants to honor her parent’s anniversary by passing along the love and compassion she inherited from their relationship. Later that same day a young woman was weeping in my office, devastated by the husband who abandoned her and their two-year-old child. $50 wasn’t going to solve her problems, but it heartened her to know someone cared. The church works when we celebrate love.
- One of our snowbirds returned from Florida, bubbling with excitement. “I discovered Tai Chi,” she exclaimed, “and I want to share it with others.” Her enthusiasm draws in 15-18 people, members and visitors to our church, twice weekly as they share fellowship and gentle exercise. The church works when people follow their enthusiasm.
- “Art makes people feel good,” a gifted woman in our congregation told me. She has the ability to transform paints, fabrics, or flowers into beautiful creations. “More people should be exposed to art,” she declared. Her invitation inspired 20 artists to gather for a show and sale, transforming our fellowship hall into a combination art gallery and cool craft store. Visitors receive a transfusion of color and creativity on a cold winter morning. Church works when we share our passion and abilities.
- Meals shared, prayers offered, cards sent, clothes distributed, hugs given, a listening ear offered.
Seminary professors call this “incarnational theology; the Word made flesh.”
I call it making God visible to the world. That’s church.
*Oil painting by Karen McFarlin: email@example.com