I don’t want you to misunderstand this heart of mine,
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t ever GO to church — what I’m saying is this…
Like all of those big words in the Bible like love, grace, and mercy (just to name a few) — church is a multi faceted word. It is many things — the very least of which — is a building. We don’t GO to church because we ARE the church, my silly semantic mind often argues — but I’ve leaned to calm that little voice. Church — to me — in its largest sense is a verb, it’s a DOING thing, a BEING thing — WE are the church, commissioned by our God (do you feel that?!?!?!?!?!? it’s a PULL and calling like no other, that commissioning — it doesn’t let you go — like ever! ). Not one for labeling, the man-made necessity for having to put people in little boxes to make ourselves comfortable drives me crazy (or maybe it’s just because I don’t FIT into one that I can’t stand them — there’s no box for me!!!!! wink ) — I don’t identify myself with any one denomination. I have a difficult time with organized religion in general. I, quite simply, believe in Jesus. I don’t need to argue theology, rip apart what you believe or I believe, or agree on these bullet points or check any boxes. Jesus loves everyone. Even this girl. And I’ll just follow that guy. He gave his life for me, and I will spend the rest of my life doing my fractured best to live for him…
“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split.” Matthew 27:50,51
The Bible is full of imagery. The crucifixion is so dark — the earth reacts so violently to Jesus’s death. It cries out from the depths of its core. The natural world feels a loss – a willing and giving up sacrifice — of the metaphysical — a being part God and man. Therefore, physical and aggressive acts happen. In the words of my eight year old, “it gets creepy.”
In Matthew there are accounts of tombs breaking open and bodies of holy people being raised from the dead and appearing to people. I mean, there are passages in books I can’t read to my boys before bedtime because they can’t sleep afterwards. This.all.happened. We believe these words. And these words often move us to tears — because these words also give us life — they give us our relationship with our God. They give us everything. And one of the most beautiful images, to me, is the simple image of a torn curtain. It’s symbolic of so much more than split fabric. That curtain was torn (I always imagine it to be massive and thick and regal and red, dark blue or royal purple — all illustrious and intimidating and then WHAM — SPLIT and torn from the very top to the very bottom — BAM!) and our relationship with God was changed forever. It became so very intimate. It became so very OURS. No future sacrifices or rituals were needed — no sacred rooms, no high priests, no exhaustive list of rules and regulations (cutting your hair, tattoos, directly speaking to our Lord in prayer — it’s legit now — smile). Just us and this trinity. Well, the Holy Spirit was to come — so very soon.
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” Acts 2:1-4
These passages always give me goose bumps. Fire that doesn’t burn outside but inside. As if the gift of forgiveness and eternal life wasn’t enough, God gives us a gift of himself — he doesn’t leave us orphans. And that Holy Spirit is real, so very real! The intangible things in life are the most real, aren’t they? Invisible does not ever equate insignificance! And he won’t let this girl ease complacently through life — hallelujah!!! (most days it’s a hallelujah — I’ll admit that on my less than stellar days I want to run and hide from him and beg him to leave me alone — he’s so insistent that I be who God created me to be!) — because even though his yoke is easy and his burden is light, I’m not made for mindlessly coasting. I’m meant to live fully present in him. I’m meant to bear witness. I’m meant to testify. It’s my Holy Spirit DNA… “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Jesus Christ to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10.
What’s your Holy Spirit DNA and where will it lead you, what places will it take you, and how will it keep you busy for the Lord? Every single one of us has a different purpose and calling created and crafted specifically for us, with our talents, our skills and our hearts — with our entire being in mind. How absolutely amazing is that?!!?!??!?! And we get to wake up every single day and embrace it! So very exciting, isn’t it? Go ahead and freak out and cry and jump up and down if you want to — I do too ❤ .
We are called to witness and to testify along with our gifts, yes, but that isn’t to say that church is all about racking up members and filling pews (or folding chairs) — with some “now serving” meter that ticks and dings above entrance doors as people walk on through. There is not a secret “you are now the 100th customer served and saved!” confetti streaming spot to win in our zest for evangelical zeal and conversions. I’ve been a part of churches like that. They weren’t churches. They were factories, machines. I wasn’t a person. I was a number. A number that begot other numbers. And that isn’t church, my friends, because that isn’t love (which doesn’t keep score and isn’t prideful). No one is keeping score in heaven. There is no punch card that gets you a bigger mansion with every 200 souls saved on a street more thickly laden with gold — more than Rachel’s because she only brought 50 people to the Lord. And the true work of conversion in a person’s heart is totally God, after all. The glory is solely (and soul-y — smile) His. We don’t wield that super natural power. We can be a catalyst for this glorious miracle, yes. But that true change and metamorphosis of heart, that gift of the Holy Spirit? That all comes from our Father. We need to set our egos aside in that department. We don’t “save” anyone, loves. That glory goes to our magnificent and holy God who is so very mighty to save. We can offer the sustenance, the bread, the word, and we can earnestly pray — but God is the life, soul, heart changer — and grantor of eternal life. “Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.” Psalm 68:20
So, for us to BE church — what do we give and convey through those doors? Church IS, in the simplest of terms, extending his love–that other massively big and complex and active verb. Over and over and over again — and never growing tired of that or desiring anything in return for our labor. “And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right” 2 Thessalonians 3:13 Which would be impossible — if it were up to just us humans (I tend to get tired and like thank you’s — smile). But it’s not — we’ve got magic. We have this amazing soul presence intertwined with a heavenly piece of our God. Which makes me cry — like LEVELS ME!!! Every.single.time. Because we are walking, talking, breathing, you know — just your common every day miracles. Every single one of us! And we get to, dear God we have to, share that love light, that fantastic miracle of love, with others. When you have light like that, love like that, joy like that, peace like that, HEAVEN like that — you don’t cover it up and table it for another day — oh dear everything no — you share it!!!
And how do we share this? By our words, yes. Of course by our testaments and our stories of what Jesus has done for us — but also — I think even MORE importantly — by our day-to-day. What do I mean? By our every day “normal” (what ever that is, right?) . By how we live, by how we love, in every single thing we do — yes, I mean every thing. Daunting, overwhelming? Sometimes. Maybe even a lot of the times. But not impossible. Because God is so vastly amazing and bigger than anything we could possibly imagine (and did I mention, we hold a gift — a portion of that awesome God within us? Seriously… just think on that… As a side note this is also helpful when you’re frustrated with your spouse — probably only happens to me — smile — they are vessels of the Holy Spirit too ) .
We must BE the church for Christ in our everydays. It’s not a spectator venue. When Jesus says, “Follow me” — we actually have to DO the WALKING. Because, loves, He says, “follow” — not “watch”. DO as I DO. And sometimes, I have to pray all day long to do this. I am that fallible. I pray the hours. I mess up over and over again. And I grab my Bible. And I passionately write. And I call a friend and ask her to listen and pray with me. And I pray some more. And he loves me through it. And because of this great love, I am able to show others love. This is real life. This is amazing grace and amazing love. And PS — I have to tell my kids and my husband and my friends and family sorry often. I have to ask for forgiveness often. And we pray and start over so many times. And people see this. And people know this. And I will be accessably fallible for the rest of my life — as well as accessably loved and forgiven. Praise God again and again. We aren’t commanded to be perfect, but we are commanded to follow… “You must follow me.” John 21:22
Sometimes I look at the all of church in this regard (as it gets to be so big for me — y’all know we do home church too and that is sacred and a treasure to me and has its specific place as well ). I often “go to” church (you know, that physical infrastructure–smile) to better “be” church to and for everyone around me. I bring my marked up and ‘been to a part of every denomination since I was a little’ Bible and my heart that beats wildly for Jesus (still, after all these years — he’s the love of my life) and surrender myself. We sing (my eight year old LOVES to sing — and draw pictures for our pastor, he’s moved by the Spirit, what can I say?), and we pray, and there’s blessing and there’s grace, and we may not always agree and see eye to eye (and I hope we don’t always — I really, really hope we don’t — because I think questions only grow our faith and stretch us in our journeys), and God is there — He is most certainly there — calling us and commissioning us to BE His church — beyond the folding chairs, beyond the gym doors, and far beyond Sunday. Amen, dear loves, amen. And that — that IS church. ❤
Church is me, it’s you, it’s the walks on the bike path I have with my boys praising God for His creation (hearing the wind breathe His name), it’s our Bible studies together, our family devotionals, it’s our communal prayers, it’s our prayers in solitude — lighting my prayer candle and praying for my friends, my family, my country, the universal church, for believers, non believers, for all of us that are called to be more than we are at the face of things — more than just this skin and bones structure. Church is forever finding God in the places where everyone says He isn’t, the places that don’t look so holy, the places that scare me and push me and make me want to run away — because some days I am the Samaritan and on others I am the Levite.
Church is intimate, church is quiet. Church is loud hallelujahs and hands in the air. Church is quiet tears and gentle taps of your fingers and toes when hands raised just isn’t how you praise and that’s really okay too. God doesn’t judge your dedication and adoration by how loud you are. Church is God in your heart, on your lips and on your mind — it’s Jesus from your head to your toes. Church is Jesus everywhere and anywhere, any blessed day, any minute of the week — because God isn’t limited to space or time or places or days — because God is always everywhere — He’s infinite. Church is here, church is now — being and breathing the kingdom work that needs to be done for a kingdom that is here and a kingdom that is to come.
Church is love. Forever and always love. Tirelessly. Relentlessly. Holy, perfect, blameless love — of which we can’t flawlessly do — but we can offer, we can point to — in the Trinity. And we can do our very best to model and give — as a body of believers, that is as diverse as the stories and experiences we bring to this expansive table where we are all welcome to come and sit and have fellowship — as brothers and sisters in Christ — as his church — gathered in his name — in which ever way we chose to gather in it — to share it, to encourage and love one another in it, and forever invite others to his love. Come and sit — for you are always welcome. The old is gone, the new has come, and no one gets to label anyone by that old stuff anymore. “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” Colossians 2:16, 17
Happy Sunday, loves.
And happy churching for a Jesus that never lets us go ❤ … (no matter how many times we mess up this church thing…)
Love you all ❤ .
(And the boys and I heard and experienced one of the GREATEST sermons today–which led to more Bible and Sarah Bessey reading and I wish I could say commissioned us to even greater things — but we took a nap, baked some quinoa cherry crisp, went for a walk, and praised God for his beautiful creation, and called it good. Thank you, Pastor Josh, for being church. We are so richly blessed by you and your family and the entire family that is Living Waters. We lift you all up in prayer every night as we light a candle and ask the Holy Spirit to guide all of us to be the most we can be for a God who is, as one of G’s favorite songs goes, so big).
PPS: This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible from one of my favorite disciples — and I know I probably shouldn’t have a favorite from the twelve — but he’s my guy — my John. I’m more than a little excited to meet this fisherman who was so full of love in heaven. This is the last verse in the book of John, and it always makes me smile from ear to ear and with all my heart. We serve such a mighty God.
“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” John 21:25