“We’ve got to get ready to go to church this morning,” I urge my kids when it’s still dark outside on a Sunday morning and they move with much groaning and protesting.
Or someone will share with me, I’m sorry we missed church on Sunday or we won’t be in church next week because we’re on vacation or that was a really great day at church last week!
I know this has been my language as well, about going to church. But my thoughts on this have changed in the past couple of years.
Think about these words from 1 Peter 2:1-5:
So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
The building that the Bible teaches about in the New Testament is the living building of of the redeemed who have been fashioned from the blood of Jesus and are being conformed into his likeness each and every day through baptism and the Lord’s Supper and through reading and receiving the Word of God. In Baptism and in Faith in Jesus you are already the Church, you don’t go to church, you go to worship God and receive the gifts God has provided for you.
This is a really important difference. If I go to church then:
- Church becomes something I do
- I may attend church or I may not.
- I can stray away from the Word and the Sacraments given at the church but still believe I can be close to God if I’m on the mountain, in the woods or on my couch because it’s personal.
- Being together is voluntary.
- I come and do something for God.
- Being Christian is like being a republican or democrat.
If in my baptism and in faith I am the Church then:
- Church is who I am.
- The Church comes together to worship and thank God for all that God has done.
- The Church receives the Word and the Sacraments faithfully together because that is where God has promised to be because it’s about family.
- Being together is necessary.
- I receive what God gives to me, His life, encouragement and salvation.
- I am Christian, everything else flows from that.
Do you see the difference between the two? Church is not something you go to but it is who you are in Jesus and when you come together you simply are doing what Church does, what you are, God’s living stones gathering together in one place to be God’s dwelling place where God’s Words and HIs Body and Blood are present and received. Where this coming together of God’s Holy Bricks may have a different location at different times and places in the history of the Church but the building that is built in worship and fellowship together is a spiritual building where the presence of God dwells.
Imagine on any given Sunday, you pull into the parking lot and see the Church, not the building, but each member of your church family is the Church-that is living bricks, they are coming in as well. As each of you enter and sits down in the sanctuary it is like another stone laid upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. As more of the Church enters another stone is laid on top of another, stone after stone, generation after generation, all being placed by God as a master builder till in worship that day, you are a complete and beautiful spiritual home and at the heart and hearth of that home is God’s presence dwelling there in the Word and Sacraments.
When worship is over, filled with the Spirit, you take your stone wherever you go as a living altar to God’s grace in every place, work or home. But you’re never complete by yourself, you always come back to be part of that beautiful spiritual home each and every week that houses the Word and the Sacraments.
As a living stone, who you are in Jesus is chiseled and sanded, fitted and placed with the other stones around you. This is how you are shaped by God through the family of faith you are joined together with. Jesus is shaping and forming each stone in the Church to be more and more like him, to conform to His life and His salvation to be a Holy Dwelling place for the presence of God. Each of the living stones around you have a part to play in this, as you come together to worship and are placed one on top of the other, fashioned and mortared together, God works through us to shape each other to be more like the great cornerstone and foundation of the Church, Jesus.
As we know come into this Fall Season of the Church Year, with all that comes with it, please begin to think of yourself as the Church and change the way you use your words when talking about your relationship in a church family. Don’t go to church, you are the Church and you come to worship God and be a part of the spiritual building where the Word and Sacraments of God are given and received.
Don’t go to church. You are the Church. Come to worship God.