Sunday, February 26, 2012

In praise of the local church

These last two Sundays I have been back to our local church to share in morning worship and our bible class. Last Sunday I was utterly stunned by the volume of love that pressed on us from every side. It seemed as though every person we met had been praying for me and was now rejoicing with me. It felt a little like being placed on an Oscar red carpet by the sheer goodness of God's answer to prayer and being cheered on every side. Apparently the pastor had announced the good news about my surgery outcome the previous Sunday and there had been applause! We both feel humble and deliciously warmed. At its best, belonging to church means belonging to real community with love and prayers in action. We have tasted that again.

Today, was less extravagant in its emotion (!) but one event particularly spoke to me. When we met in class, the leader began with a question: "What helps you stay close to Jesus Christ in discipleship?" I suppose there were about 40 in the room. Immediately answers began tumbling out: reading Scripture, seeing answers to prayer we do not deserve, asking the Holy Spirit to empower us, doing service for Christ, marveling about God's perfect timing, being encouraged by other Christians. So many spoke and some even told short stories. I wish I had written down a list - it was rich.

What struck me as I listened was the authenticity and quality of ordinary disciples sharing their stories. Too often we talk from the front and fail to let others' speak. (I am guilty!) In a smaller group such sharing is a delight. You can imagine how affirming it was to be part of this chorus. One person described how it was like each person was striking a tuning fork and finding a harmonious hum as more and more people joined in.

I didn't speak but I would have echoed many of the others and added my up-to-date experience of what it means to belong to such a community of love in action during these past few weeks. Yes, I know it is easy to critique the local church and point out its failings. But how I rejoice in my good story that really helps me stay close to Jesus Christ. Again, thank you for your care and prayers.

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