Hello Church Family!
As a church family we were never meant to stay behind walls and doors.
Those doors and walls are important. However, we’ve become very used to calling the building where a Church family meets, “the Church.” Doing so over the years has changed the way that we understand what the Church is. The Church has become a place instead of a people. A location instead of a movement. A place you go to instead of who you are.
The Church has become a place instead of a people.
As a Church family we’ve worked hard over the years to reclaim that Biblical understanding of what the Church actually is and what the building is. The building is the place where we gather together. It is a safe place to learn and grow in our faith together. A building to meet with your brothers and sisters in Christ and bring with you all of the hurts the world inflicts upon us and receive love and healing. A location you can go to knowing that what our God has commanded us to do together: hear His Word, share in his Sacraments, receive forgiveness of sins, and be loved by others—is all happening there. The better word for the Church building is one that has been used through the centuries—a sanctuary.
In our Christian tradition the word Sanctuary often refers to the inner most part of the building where the altar is and where people gather for worship–the Holy of Holies. But it also and much more commonly refers to the whole building. A sanctuary. A place of refuge and rest where you can come to be at peace.
Abbi knows this. Our little sister in Christ, Abbie: for her the church building is one of her favorite places. Rick and Linds are always telling me about how she knows exactly where the building is and every time she is here, she can’t wait to go inside and be there. Even though Abbi can’t always say with words what she wants, she makes it very, very clear with her actions that she wants to be in the building. I love watching how happy she gets when she is here. It is a sanctuary to her, a place she loves to go to with her family and Church family.
Like our sister Abbi, the walls and the doors, the building we call Gethsemane, or the name you have for the building where your church family meets, that is our sanctuary. A location. A resting place. But it isn’t the Church.
We are the Church.
…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.I Peter 2:5
See how the Bible describes what the Church looks like and what it does.
- A spiritual house- Together as God’s people saved by Grace through faith, we are God’s house where our Heavenly Father dwells among us– that is, all of God’s people saved by grace. From the earliest of those born in the dusty pages of history all the way to those who will be born into the far-reaching future. From all of those who are living now on this earth and all of those who are dwelling now in the safety of Heaven. All of us together are being built into a house that reaches through the pages of time, that penetrates past death, that dwells between the spiritual and material, all connected together as the dwelling place of the Most-High God, our Heavenly Father. Because Jesus brought us into His Family and gave us His Father, this is our family home, forever. In this family home we are always, always connected, from the past to the future, from those on earth and those in heaven; because of Jesus we all live in the same spiritual house, together. It is an awesome picture!
- A holy priesthood- I think the phrase, “holy priesthood,” can best be described as people who are set apart to handle the holy things of God. I know, I know– every time I talk about this and the reality that the Bible calls every Christian a holy priest, someone freaks out. Honestly, that is not an unreasonable reaction. The holy things of God sound really intimidating and we often have a picture of what a priest/pastor/clergy-like person is supposed to be like. I know, as a called and ordained clergy-like person, I freak out every day knowing that I am a priest and a pastor. The infamous words from Wayne’s World always come to mind, “we’re not worthy.” But all of that simply are own fears and insecurities trying to talk really loudly in our heads. The holy things of God? That is God’s perfect love given to us through Jesus. As a holy priesthood our Heavenly Father has called us to handle His love. That is receive His love, share His love, explore His love, learn about His love, and love as we are loved. Are we worthy? Of course not! But love is not about worth, it is about grace and mercy–our Heavenly Father’s grace and mercy for you and me, and all people, and all of creation. To be a holy priesthood, for you to be a priest, simply means love. The love of God in Jesus.
The rest of the passage in I Peter goes on to describe the Church as being mobile. That means it does stuff.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.I Peter 2:9
All of those words– royal priesthood, a nation, a people, proclaiming– all of them are things that we do. A priesthood does priestly things; a nation is built and governed; a people work together; proclaiming is to make an announcement. All of these things is the Church on the move, outside of the walls and the doors, being and doing what the Church is and does.
We see evidence of all of the reality of this, right here and now, sitting together in our parking lot, in our cars. We are the Church and, even if we’re not in our building right now, that doesn’t stop us from being Church or being God’s House or being a Church family. In fact, maybe it was a well-needed reminder for the Church. The building is the sanctuary, a safe place where we meet together for worship and learning.
But we are the Church. Just like we are sitting in our cars right now. We are meant to be mobile. To drive, to live, to go. To be the Church in our world, and with our families, and in our community.
We are the Church. We come together to worship. But we are the Church, because of Jesus.