“I really miss the songs.” -Ex Church of Christ gay man talking on HBO Documentary about Leaving Church
“Wherever Two or Three are gathered, I will be with them.” -Jesus
I’m on study break for the month of July, but while I’m away I want to try and keep keep up with what is going on at Highland. Specifically, with the sermon series that Highland is going through.
This past Sunday Ben Siburt preached a great sermon on why church, the gathering of God’s people, is a sacred thing. Which is not something we talk about that much. Many of us grew up in homes where going to church was a given, we didn’t just go on Sunday mornings, we went every time the doors where open. In fact, that became a common saying to describe our family. It was the way we delinated between us and the pagan Sunday only crowd.
And then, we reacted to that legalistic view of checking off our God card. God didn’t care about us showing up to a particular building during a particular hour of the week, right?
At the church I serve, there are several senior saints who are caring for their spouses in various stages of bad health. Some of them are dealing with some of the most tragic of diseases like Alzheimer’s, and yet these people show up every week to sing and pray and take communion with other saints and sinners who have gathered together. In a church the size of Highland, I don’t get to talk to everyone every Sunday, but I always try to talk to them.
Not just for their sake, but for mine.
Because I knew what it took for them to get here. I know that for them Sunday morning started a few hours earlier than it did for me. In order to get there on time, they had a thousand more things to accomplish before they could head out the door. But they do it, not out of some legalistic sense of earning God’s favor.
They do it because this is one of the most tangible way’s to experience God’s favor.
One of my favorite guys at Highland is caring for his wife through a particularly painful illness. And each time he comes in late, and has to leave early, but when I asked him if he would be interested in someone bringing communion to them, he told me, “No. I need to be there to shake some Christians hands.”
Which is an interested way to say that.
The Image Of God In Others
C.S. Lewis once said it this way:
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.
Think about what he’s saying here. the people that we rush past the rest of the week, are on their way to becoming something more or less than they are now. And this is a reality that we are mostly blind to.
Except, sometimes at Church.
Orthodox Christians have, for over a thousand years, referred to the Assembly of God’s people as a Sacrament. That means it is something that God uses to infuse the sacred into the world.
That’s why my friend comes to church. He is watching his wife slip away slowly and surely, and he needs to be reminded of the presence of God in a world where it might not feel He’s that present. He needs to shake some Christian’s hands.
Every day, he is watching himself and his bride of many decades, become less. He needs to be reminded that ultimately they are on their way to becoming more.
I remember all throughout growing up, there would be Sunday’s where I would all of a sudden notice that Bro. Frank or Sister Ruby had suddenly gotten older. I saw them three times a week, but there was a tipping point where they moved past just “getting up there.” The seeds of death were starting to become more visible. And they still showed up.
Because for them, Church was a Spiritual discipline, it was also a way of giving and receiving a gift. They were watching the younger people gather along side them, realizing that the Gospel was going to be just fine. I was watching them die, realizing that they were teaching me how to live.
So we gather, and we look for the Jesus hidden among us. We look for the people that we are becoming, and one day will be. And we realize that everytime we gather it’s more than just a variety of people gathering in a room. It is Sacred space.
So back to that old phrase, “Every Time the Doors Are Opened.” Since I’ve been in ministry I’ve come to appreciate the mystery that is the gathered church. Because every Sunday there is a chance that no one else shows up. Some people open some doors and turn on some lights and wait.
But every Sunday God draws people, believer and unbelievers alike, to come together to worship. We learn again to see each other, and how to see the world.
And the word for that is Sacred.