Sunday, June 11, 2017

Sunday Afternoon Tea - We Are the Church

They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony...
Revelation 12:11 NIV

Thank you very much to everyone who responded to last week's post.  I was apprehensive about writing it because I knew there would be some who would (thankfully) not be able to relate.  However, it was met with such grace.

I should say that my husband still attends our church and that they are good people (and our pastor, now retired, was one of my very favorite humans I ever had the privilege of meeting).  I didn't fit in (and should have found a church in which I did) but there were other considerations keeping me there at the time.  I enjoyed meeting with others by going to Bible Study Fellowship for awhile, until I was just too tired to attend regularly.

The problem with an auto immune illness is that one's own body is doing a very good job of attacking itself.  Over the years, the fatigue becomes worse.  However, I thank God all the time for living in a century where five shots can keep one alive.  Fatigue?  That is manageable with a "little at a time" lifestyle.

Pondering all of this got me to thinking, though, how we are the Church.  So, of course, the Church will be imperfect because it is made up of imperfect humanity.  It is much like families, some are for the most part easy to get along with while others are argumentative.  Some families are all extroverts while others have more introverted members.  I tease my daughter-in-law that I would never fit in as a member of her very extroverted family... but I love them dearly.

We will never agree on every jot and tittle of Church doctrine but historically we have agreed on the basic tenants of the Faith... the virgin birth of Christ, salvation through Christ, the Truth of the Word of God, etc.  The older I become, the more grace I give to people who agree with the basics but who do not do church the way I do.  Other than when there is heretical theology or abuse of any kind, I don't join the conversation of throwing rocks at each other.

I mean, really... I became a Christian in a Wesleyan church, cut my spiritual eye teeth as a Presbyterian, started attending an old fashioned Pentecostal church as my husband sought healing, attended Charismatic churches, went back to the Wesleyan church, and our most recent church is nondenominational.

I can argue theology with myself!  If people ask me if I believe in a pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, or end-of-tribulation rapture, I can answer... "ummmm... all the above?".

However, the real Truth here is that we are the Church!  You and me and the pastor on TV who screams from the pulpit and the one who is kinda' boring and the graduate student who has stayed firm to his faith and the mother cooking yet another meal and the father who goes to work faithfully each day and the woman who spreads hurtful gossip and the people who are faithful workers and the slackers and the tithers and those who never give a cent and those who lay hands on others to pray and those who never ever want hands laid on them thank you very much!

The Bible tells us that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit which today means that we are the church of the Holy Spirit and that means together... we are the Church.  In all our humanity, God lives within each one of us.  We think He took a chance with those outsiders whom He called to become Apostles.  I say His real mistake was trusting the motley crew of people who would accept Him as Savior and become... the Church.

But God doesn't make mistakes.  He chose them.  He chose me.  He chose you.  He chose us to become the Body of Christ. His Church.  The one He is building a place for in Heaven.  For each of us.  Uniquely and individually... a Place for you and for me. The one He is coming back for when this age ends. 

How do we "occupy until He comes", as He instructed?  First, we do whatever He has set before us.  Each of us has been placed in this Time and Space of the 21st Century.  But then each of us have individually been gifted and placed in unique situations.  My family is different than your family.  My circle of friends is most likely different than anyone else on the planet.  My interests are both the same and different than yours.

He made each part of the Body of Christ to be unique but at the same time... necessary.  We are His hands and His feet and His proclaimer of Truth to those only entrusted to our corner of the planet, our little part of the world.  That circle which is about the size of a hug.

The world needs us to be Jesus now more than ever.  Yes, I would like to see refugees vetted for this is a fallen world and there are evil people who are taking advantage of the kindness of others to do harm.  I lived in Detroit on 9/11 and I don't know if it made the national news... but the streets of Dearborn were full of celebration for the attack.  It scared the heck out of me, living only miles away. 

Having said that... who else but the Church should be sponsoring and accepting refugees for we are to feed the poor and give homes to the homeless and take care of the orphans and the widows.

If we were truly the Church, there would be no need for government sponsored homeless shelters.  Government food banks would close if we were the Church.  Women who are scared into having an abortion would have a place to go to be taken care of and safely have her baby... whether she keeps it or blesses another woman who would love to be a mother.

The Evangelical church is known for what it is against more than what it is for.  We need to turn that around.  Not by watering down the Gospel of Christ but by being the Gospel of Christ! 

We each are not only part of His Story... individually we are a Story.  

Our lives are telling a Story each day we wake up with new mercies and breath in our lungs and a beating heart.  What are people reading when they watch your story being lived out in real time?  It is true that old saying, "We are the only Jesus some people will ever see".

We need to walk close to Him and do the best we can as we live that Story.  Never ever perfectly.  Always asking for His forgiveness when we say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing... for we will.  Living each day to new mercies and undeserved grace.

I love the verses in the Book of Revelation (the Apocalypse in Catholic Bibles) that are shared under the photo above.  How did the Church win against the ultimate enemy?  What were her most powerful tools in the war of the ages?  Simply... the blood of Jesus and the Story each of us has to tell. 

Our words and The Word. The most powerful combination on the planet.

Photo:  A favorite photo of a morning quiet time many years ago on the deck.


Deanna Rabe - Creekside Cottage Blog said...

Amen, and Amen!

Love this post!

Kathy said...

Love this...if we were truly the church...thank you!

Unknown said...

Thank you. This was so helpful for me as I have asked God to come into my life in just the last few years. HE had offered his hand to me over and over again but it wasn't until I was 58 year old that I was able to open my heart to HIM. I will keep this post to re-read.

Bess said...

As perfect a post as was ever written, Brenda. Blessings! Bess

Anonymous said...

Brenda, I read your previous post about your struggle with church and I've thought about it a lot. For years and years my husband and I were in and out of churches and had a great deal of difficulty in finding one. Our hope was to find one as near as possible to the ones we attended in the early 70s: fellowships which placed great emphasis on Jesus, the Bible and being led by the Holy Spirit. Alas, that was not to be. 16 years ago we moved to a rural area; one church we were asked to leave by a deacon because my husband taught the Sunday School class directly from scripture, rather than the denomination's literature (as had the teacher previous to him). Two were very small congregations that folded when the pastors left. Two we left after issues with anti-Semitism (2 different denominations).

The only reason we kept trying was because our grandchildren were being raised outside the faith and we needed a place to take them when they visited. In a seemingly chance encounter with a former church mate, she invited us to a small country church and we went. That was 5 years ago. My husband is now the church pianist and Sunday School teacher. I fill in as Bible Study leader when the pastor's wife is gone and plan the monthly fellowship. Our pastor is very, very good about allowing participation and listens to new suggestions. Attendance has dropped down as low as 12 a couple of years ago and is now about 32.

No back biting, no superiority. People are genuinely fond of each other. Of course it isn't perfect - nothing this side of heaven will be - but it's home to us now.

I've attended several churches with the "you aren't a part of us" attitude, and all I can say is that they are mistaken when they think it's THEIR church and best leave them to learn that.

Fibro myalgia and arthritis have seriously changed my leaving-the-house activities and I no longer attend Wednesday night, and sometimes it's too much to go at all. So I understand your auto immune challenges.

God bless you and I'm thankful you have fellowship with other Believers, because that is truly one of the main functions of the church.

Karla said...

Amen! Nothing else needs to be said. Just amen!