We opened in prayer. How could we start any other way? With heads bowed and eyes closed, we asked for the Lord’s blessing, for fresh eyes to see his Word, and for enlarged hearts to receive his grace.
The local expression of God’s church to which I belong is beautiful. How could she not be? Christ died for her. Though she isn’t big by American standards, she is large in the realms of glory. She is young but not immature. She is small yet mighty.
I have only a small vantage point compared to the all-knowing eyes above, but what I saw last Sunday was breathtaking.
Down the hall, a group of women were opening the pages of Micah. And in our men’s Bible study, we were looking at Psalm 116, learning from Tim Keller how to pray the Scriptures. Taking five minutes to pray the words before us, one man prayed a simple and obvious prayer from the first verse. “I love you, Lord, because you’ve heard me and done so much for me.” The simplicity of it struck me. How could something so basic be so moving? We opened the Bible. We prayed the Bible. And glory came down.
An hour later, gathered in the cafeteria of an elementary school, we sang praises to God. Our pastor stood and preached a difficult but wonderful sermon from Mark 10:1-12: Jesus’ teachings on divorce. We took communion. We gave of our tithes and offerings. We sang a few more songs and we left.
Down the road, a group of women met in my living room to discuss a Christian book. They opened up to one another, asking questions and digging deep.
Hours later, my living room was filled again with our community group, there to catch up with one another, pray for one another, and discuss the day’s sermon.
It wasn’t a banner day, really. But then again, it was. It was the Lord’s day, and I saw his hand upon the breadth of it.
I admit, most Sundays come and go without these thoughts. I don’t always see the beauty of the church. Too often, I see the shortcomings. I wish for more: more people, more intensity, more good feelings, more something. But whether I see it or not, God’s glory descends upon our church week by week, day by day, moment by moment. Not because we have built something great but because, with his blood, Jesus has.
Ephesians 5:25 says, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” The church gathers in the aftermath of the crucifixion. We are a sacrificial gathering, but not one offering our sacrifices to please God; we come under the God-pleasing sacrifice of Christ. We assemble as ones freed from eternal wrath, washed by cleansing blood, redeemed from death by death.
Is that crazy? God gave himself up for this. The church is not man’s idea. We wouldn’t have thought of it. We would over-complicate it. We would muddle it. We would infuse it with more things, thinking our stuffing would enhance the flavor. But what we add only detracts. What God gives is pure and undefiled.
The message never changes. At least it shouldn’t. It’s the old, old story of Jesus and his love. Told again and again, from page to page and sermon to sermon. The gospel’s glory held high, multifaceted and eminently practical. We come with our fears and find courage. We come with our anxieties and find peace. We come with our wounds and find healing. We come with our joys and find gratitude. We come in a thousand different ways all at the same time and yet we come—we come to the Lord and his people.
What do we find when we get there? On the surface, not much. A few songs. A talk that lasts too long for the kids in the pew. A little bread and juice. A benediction and it’s over. But it’s not. It’s never really over. We’re changed, even if only a little, passing to another degree of glory. The chatter that happens on the way out is a glorious reminder that these are God’s people, his family, and today’s reunion was another picture of the eternal home to which we’re going. It will have better lighting, for the Lord will be our sun. There will be more life, for we will be made new. Yet it will feel like home, because we’ve been here before, gathered under the Lord’s grace, joined by his resurrected body.
Our American world doesn’t see what happens each Sabbath morning. Sunday’s interstates and highways are near empty. The Monday through Friday, nine-to-five pedal pushers press the brakes, opting for extra time in bed and another cup of coffee. But something glorious is happening in every village and town and city. The songs of the redeemed are rising like incense, a very pleasing aroma. God is tasted and seen. The King is worshiped. A revolution comes to its rallying place.
Editor’s Note: This originally published at Things of the Sort.