“Church was great today.”
This was my facebook status, and a friend asked, in the comments: “What was so good today? What was your favorite worship song?”
I couldn’t think of a pithy encapsulating response, so here’s a longwinded one. (You did ask!) ( I’m skipping the worship song question. That’s a whole other potential post.)
(But before that, a qualifying quibble. When people say they were at a service and ‘the worship was excellent’ I immediately turn into a theological cul-de-sac where I think, eh, God’ll be the judge of that, surely.)
I love the church that I attend. I love the fact that it is a real community with real people who physically turn up and see each other on a weekly basis, in person, for weeks, months and years on end. Like, years. Decades, even.
And as life goes on the people have, between them, every type of life experience that it is possible to have in Scotland: employment, unemployment, redundancy, bereavement, joy, illnesses of all kinds, recovery, births, engagements, marriages, deaths, separation, divorce, worries about family, worries about relationships, worries about friends, worries about society, fun, parties, meals, loneliness, learning difficulties, traumatic events, perfectly mundane moments, low self esteem, hospitalization, disability, education, catastrophic health events, wrangles with self, life, death, the universe, everything…
And, having attended the same church for many years, I have seen the people there repeatedly form into a safety net, catching each other when they fall.
Of course, it isn’t flawless. The church is made up of humans. And we are thoughtless, careless and have a tendency to occasionally say, do or think the wrong thing to one another. Sometimes the forgiveness mechanisms get a bit clogged up and personalities struggle to get along. But turning up builds community; working together aids understanding and having the same ultimate goal means that the community can work.
So, why was church ‘great today’?
We were looking at 2 Corinthians – the end of chapter 4 and the start of chapter 5.
This passage speaks into the very heart of the human condition and provides hope. Which is great.
There are great things about being alive, but death is a certainty. Sooner or later, we die. For many people death is seen as a big full stop, after which the book is closed. For the Christian, for me, for the church: it’s a semi-colon.
Today, looking at the passage in 2 Corinthians shows that Christian faith does not shy away from life’s realities, but provides the way through. Human frailty is countered by God’s power. A perspective is offered that makes the experience of human life make sense – even if just for a wee moment of clarity – when we learn to live by faith and not by sight.
In a time when people think it is utterly mental to have faith, it is so encouraging to hear again God’s message, and for it to tally so closely with one’s reality, one’s experience of life personally and as a community, and as a world.
So, that was great.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians ch 4 vs 16-18
Maybe to some this will read like mystical tripe, but I like it, and I think it’s true. I hope the hope in there…. gives you hope.