Does Church Matter? A Reflection on Gathering

Photo courtesy of Salt Project video "Love", all rights reserved.
(Photo courtesy of Salt Project video “Love”)

+ Matthew 18: 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them…

Just last week,  I was walking our dog Moses down our beautiful brick street. Above me there were clouds shaped like cotton candy. The crisp fall air had begun to seep in to the summer heat. The breeze on my cheeks awakened my soul. This moment- suspended in time- stuck with me. It reminded me of God.

This has happened before. Maybe it’s happened to you. You see a beautiful, dramatic landscape or a brilliant, bright sunset. You hear a quiet melody of a songbird… and you think of God.

God is certainly in these places. Everything that we see and hear and touch was made by God and God said the world was very, very good.

We can learn about God from the sea, the air, the earth, and nature.

In fact, sometimes the beauty of a sunset, or the vastness of a mountain range, or the sight of the ocean feels like enough of an encounter with God. And because of this… many people forgo church all together.

They call themselves “Spiritual but not religious.”

So why do we come to church?

At Community Christian Church this morning, 190 people gathered together to celebrate all birthdays in 2014, to sing “Amazing Grace”, to pray together, and to join the fun of a church potluck.

But what does any of this mean? What is the point of coming to church when God can be seen and sensed out in the world?

This odd, old fashioned place where people of all generations gather: to sing a few familiar songs, to be in a simple room with uncomfortable wooden pews, to follow along from opening prayer, to the breaking of bread, to the standing and sitting and standing again…

But really, does church matter?

I remember the Saturday that my grandfather died.

I posted it on my facebook status. Dozens of friends and family commented and sent their love. But it didn’t help.

It wasn’t until I walked into church on Sunday morning when a long time member of the church surrounded me with the embrace of a grandparent- that I felt comforted.

To me, in this place we call church… we have a chance to actually reach out for one another- to touch one another in times of grief and sorrow and confusion.

We’ve done this together already at Community Christian Church. We’ve gathered in times of grief and anxiety and loss.

In the days after a Malaysian flight went missing with 239 people lost, we gathered in the balm of our sanctuary to question and to grieve together.

In the very week that we baptized 5 of our youth, we learned that hundreds of young people in South Korea were submerged under water and never rose up again- in the terrible ferry disaster last spring. So we cried out to God together.

When news broke about Robin Williams wrestling the depths of despair and losing his battle with depression, we met in the church to look one another in the eyes and remind each other to hold tightly to this fragile, challenging, beautiful life- to lift one another up- to encourage one another to go on, to persevere.

In our gospel reading for today, Jesus is equipping his disciples for what they will endure. He is in the process of building the church. He foreshadows a time when they will feel alone, confused, and sorrowful when he journeys to the cross and leaves them behind.

Even though we can learn about God through creation and we can study more about God from the Bible alone on a beach- it is in this passage that Jesus reminds us “where two or three are gathered, I am among them.”

He’s preaching about the holiness of coming together, the sacredness of two people, or three people, or 190 people coming together and the face of God emerging there- the face of compassion, and grace, and mercy becoming visible and present.

There is something sacred about being community together. In community, we can expect Christ to show up.

In the embrace from a grandfather-figure on a day you grieve, in the harmony of your neighbor singing “Amazing Grace” next to you-despite the troubled world around us, in the power of saying in unison “Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers…” it is in these moments that we are in the presence of God, it is in these moments that Christ can be seen and heard and touched.

To me, this is why church matters. Why does church matter to you?

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