My [imperfect] church
After Sunday’s service, there was an endearing exchange that occurred at the back of the church. An elder was praising our girl for her great game on Friday night. Jokingly, I asked him if she was now speaking to him. The reason for the ribbing was her “insistence” that he jinxed her team when he came to root for her in his town wearing that town’s fan gear. She said she was going to blame him for their addition to the “L” column. Despite the bad apparel choice, he cheered for her team (and her specifically) the entire game. All of this playful teasing was followed with raucous laughter, lined with appreciation, love and support – and of course, basketball advice.
I have purposefully waited a few days to let the words in my previous blog ruminate in all our hearts. My intention was to share that no church anywhere is perfect, because they are full of sinners. If you are looking for the perfect church, you won’t find it because all are filled with imperfect people. My writing was also to proclaim that a veil had been lifted from my myopic vision. God showed me how I contributed to the problem, keeping me from my heart’s desire is to encourage others in their faith.
I don’t want to be a stumbling block or obstacle – which required me to take a long look in the mirror of my soul and get real with God. Rather than forgiving, I internalized hurts and perpetuated a problem. I do have a fervent wish to love without reservation – just like Jesus did, and in my inner recesses, I think he would be grieved by how we who love him have turned away both the lost and the found by our actions.
Many years ago, I had a friend who believed in Jesus but never attended church. She would always quote Matthew 18:20 (For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. [NIV] ) as her reasoning. Whenever I asked if she would like to go, she would respond that churches were full of hypocrites. Well that is true, but I didn’t really feel like our shopping trips and fun excursions counted as church. I know Jesus was in our midst, but that didn’t fill my longing for church.
This is not a condemnation of anyone’s views or church attendance patterns. This is more a love story of how a collective group imperfect people work together to encourage each other in God’s love and what that means to me, personally.
When our darkest hour happened, the first people to rally around were church people – our own and those from sister churches. I could write a tome on all the kindnesses that have been extended to us over the last six (has it really been that long???) years. Those acts of being the hands and feet of God were forever etched in my heart. Church, however, is so much more than Sunday morning service and helping out when a hardship hits.
SO. MUCH. MORE.
We eat together, serve together, craft together, study together, pray together, love together, and mourn together. Basically, we just do life which includes the messy stuff too.
Do we fail each other? Yes, but we forgive and reconcile. Like the time, Reed learned the hard way that casting the first stone might break the nursery window. The grace extended to him in that incident embodied encouragement and understanding. For me, Hebrews 10:25 let us not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another [NIV] is more in line with why my church matters to me.
Encouragement. We all need it.
Do we forget that verse sometimes? Yes, I am afraid we do, but when the Holy Spirit convicts our hearts, we return with repentant attitudes.
One of my favorites is how much we laugh together which I know has to be music to Jesus’ ears. Young and old – we really know how to fellowship. From quilting bees to freezer meals and from campfires to game nights, there isn’t a moment where you would not find some chuckles to be shared. Some jokes just seem to never grow old either.
The Herdmans in the The Best
Worst Christmas Pageant Ever have nothing on us, as one year an exuberant preschooler hit the lit advent wreath which flung up in the air in what appeared to be slow motion before it came to rest – thankfully extinguished – at the base of the organ.
This, of course, is second to the pageant where the wiggly preschooler fell off the stage and was wedged upside down with only his feet showing between the piano and the alter area while the soloist lived up to the slogan, “The show must go on!”
Our senior pastor is often at the helm of many of those jokes as he encourages us to laugh with (and frankly sometimes at) him. Not many can say their spiritual leader has attended parties dressed as an octogenarian to celebrate someone being “over the hill”. He was also one of the chief cheerleaders as our Boy Wonder healed from surgeries, and his prowess with Nerf Dart Gun attacks on stacks of Styrofoam cups would awe anyone.
We clip newspaper articles of each other’s children, exchange high fives, bake cakes for funerals, make jello molds (something I thought I would never do), exchange recipes, know who made what food for the potluck based solely on the crockpot, send letters and notes, (and laugh when we put the wrong card in the wrong envelope), create new traditions, cuddle babies, make quilts, sing Hallelujahs, hug and wipe away tears, help you pick up the pieces when life seems shattered . . . all out of love. A love for a God who made us all family even with all our flaws and imperfections!
So it was last Sunday, loved exuded as three generations of God’s people gathered around the back pew to laugh about the familiarity of friendship and the love of a game. No we aren’t perfect, but we are all trying to love God and love others. Somehow that just feels like home.