Today we will be the church in towns and villages, cities and metropolises in two hemispheres, across seven continents, rich and poor, black and white, male and female, young and old. We will meet in school halls, auditoriums, cinemas and converted warehouses, downtown, uptown and every place in between. In cathedrals and chapels, the flagging and flourishing, coming together, Royal, Holy, Chosen, declaring the praises of him who called us out of darkness, every culture, every nation, every temperament and personality type, accepted and deeply loved by God.
In rows looking at the back of another person’s head as sun trickles through the coloured glass of stained windows or in a quiet circle of friends on fold-away chairs we will hush squabbling siblings who open colourings books and story Bibles as the first song begins. The music will be played, plucked, hummed, strummed and beat; melody, harmony, symphony, cacophony all to the glory of our great God. Called into His glorious light we will sing new words on illuminated screens and old words in Times New Roman text on pages of hymnals that feel like vellum between our fingers, their scent like bee’s wax from a thousand faithful servants who have polished these pews.
We will read from ancient scriptures in translation new and old, we will utter our ‘Thus says the Lord’, bow heads, pray and chorus ‘Amen’. Amen is what we mean for we are in agreement on these things. We are the people of God and we agree that this is good.
The preacher will preach from a text, in three points or no points at all, in stories imaginary and real. He will draw from traditions and commentaries and all the saints of old. He will tells the meanings of the words we crave like, love and joy and peace, fellowship, community and church. He will make us laugh and make us think, we will weep and sigh and leave challenged or softened, enraged or humbled.
Bread will be eaten, devoured by the hungry and nibbled upon by the not so bold, fresh and yeast scented, wheat of the field and warmth of the oven, a crusty loaf or a small white wafer, round as a moon. The body is broken and we are made whole. There is wine to make the heart glad and the heart is glad as only the forgiven can be. The peace will be shared between those who love deep and wide and those whose love seems to them too small. Hands will be shaken, a hug made, a smile, an arm around the shoulder and an offer to pray. Health, healing, provision come, all from the hand of the Lord.
Today we were the church me, my family and a few friends in the park. We met to eat together and roll our eggs down the grassy bank, to run to the bottom fetch back the egg, just to do it all again. All the rules were simple and all the children could play, everyone of them. The little ones would scramble and fall on their muddy bottoms over and over again, they would be carried in the arms of their fathers and helped when they stumble by children only a little older than they are now. The winner was the one whose egg has not cracked after tumbling through the grass ten, twenty, thirty, times. And everyone else they were winners too with prizes and sweets and we fed the ducks and play on the swings until it is time for tea.
This is my church and now we know each other a little better and love each other a little more. And here we are ready to meet and greet the poor and lost and lonely and all who mourn; to bring them a little bit of Jesus on a spring day in the park, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, small children, big children and our egg rolling fun and His good safe love.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9, 10 NIV)