Some people say that church is a sanctuary to escape from the world. Others say that it is a place of activism. Some a place to make friends and others it is just what we do on Sunday mornings. It might be the feeling of peace you get when you walk into the space or something else completely. The church might be the only place you experience Jesus all week (hopefully not) or it might be the place you go to serve God. Probably it is a combination of all those things. What is it that makes church, Church for you?
It seems like Church is supposed to be a perfect place where all we talk about is God. The feelings of peace and joy are the only feelings we should experience. We expect it to be a place of comfort, reassurance and seek out God to help us during a difficult experience we are having in our lives.
Fortunately, church can be all of those things. But church can also be messy, imperfect, sad, difficult, frustrating, and sometimes hurtful. We are human and we don’t always treat each other the way we should treat each other. We fail to love our neighbor as ourselves. And we don’t always understand what God is doing in the midst of a really difficult moment in our own lives. And sometimes it feels too personal to share with our pew neighbor.
A friend of mine likes to tell the joke about a couple who goes looking for the “perfect” church. He meets with the pastor at a new church a goes through the long list of what he thinks is a perfect church which includes worship experience, Bible study, mission, community etc. The wise pastor sits back and says, if you find that perfect church, don’t join it because it won’t be perfect anymore. We all bring our life baggage with us. And if we are honest with ourselves, we all play a part in the perfection and imperfection of what makes church, Church.
As a pastor, I see the beauty of the church as a sanctuary, somewhere to go out from into the world, a holy place, and a group of beautifully broken people. Sometimes it is easier to see the brokenness than it is to see the perfection.
This past weekend, I saw perfection. At Pinnacle we begin our year with a Roundup and Activities Fair, a way to reconnect with folks who have been gone all summer, laugh, play some games and get to know the ministries of the church. It always is a fun event but not without its bumps in the road, and this year it felt like there were many. I don’t need to list them off because that isn’t why the story is important. What is important is how we made it through all the bumps into the perfect weekend event.
We did it with the help of church. Members and visitors who brought their pop-up tents for us to borrow that day. New and long-time members carrying tables and chairs out onto the green, committees planning and organizing fun booth activities for young and old alike, deacons active and inactive showing up to grill, set up, serve, and clean up, children baking cupcakes, friends sitting around tables laughing, teens showing up really early to get everything ready, leaders stepping in to solve problems, and flexibility. This is church.
All of the hard stuff got set aside. The grief, loss, frustration and struggles with church and the people in it got blurred and what came into focus was that we were church together. Amen.