“I Thank My God every time I remember you” Paul writes to the Philippian church from far away. It doesn’t take much these days to feel those words, deeply, as we spend time close yet separated, not together. We are beginning to realize the treasure we have and often take for granted in the church, in the spiritual community. What follows below is a wonderful word from Royce Eckhardt expressing the longing to be together again. To that I say, “Amen! May it be soon!”
Missing the Community of Faith
I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together.
All who follow Jesus all around the world, yes, we’re the church together.
The church is not a building, the church is not a steeple,
The church is not a resting place, the church is a people!
Richard Avery and Donald Marsh © 1972, Hope Publishing Co.
I’m unapologetically a church person. This old ark has been my entire life. I’ve been a loyal attender, a staff musician, a worshiper, a volunteer. Church is a place where the great passages of life are celebrated, a place for solace and comfort in times of trouble. Church is where I belong. Now, because of the great plague, I can’t go
to church, and I miss it terribly. Yes, there are many worship services that are streamed Sunday mornings or available by podcasts. It is the best we can do, given the social restrictions that are imposed for our and society’s benefit. But Sunday
mornings at home, lounging in my pajamas, munching on toast and sipping coffee, instead of getting dressed for church, make me uneasy. Yes, I can hear the scriptures read and the prayers said and helpful sermons preached on television. Our pastors faithfully provide pastoral care and help keep us connected throughout the
week, but by phone, remotely. But something is clearly missing.
It is the community! It is people. Communal prayers, communal singing, communally hearing God’s Word, communally partaking of the bread and cup—doing these together is powerful! Perhaps church time had become a routine; Sunday mornings were on automatic pilot. What we may have taken for granted is now missing for a time, and we begin to perceive how much of our lives is centered on that weekly gathering.
“We are the church together!”
It seems very difficult to be a Christian by oneself—that the essence of the Christian faith is community. The New Testament speaks of the Christian faith in plural terms, rather than singular. The Lord’s Prayer begins,
“ Our Father…” not my Father. “Give us this day …Forgive us our debts… Lead us not into temptation.” Even Jesus required at least two or three as assurance for his presence (Matthew 18:20) .
Being a Christian is a team sport, if you will. We do not follow Christ as lone individuals but as part of a faith community. Christ ministered not alone, but with a band of disciples. After Jesus chose the disciples, we read in Luke 10:1 that seventy more were appointed and were sent out in pairs of two to the towns that our Lord
instructed them to visit. The crucial pronoun throughout the New Testament is “we” rather than “I.” The truth is that we need each other—the sharing of gifts, the bearing of burdens, the mutual support and encouragement that nourishes us. The apostle Paul writes, “ For as in one body, we are many members—so we, who are many, are one body in Christ and individually members one o f another . Love one another with
mutual affection…rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep…live in harmony with one another …in so far as depends on you, live peaceably with all others” ( Romans 12: 5, 10, 16). We now live in isolation because we must, but we feel the loss of community. Some day, when the plague subsides, we can return to our spiritual home and our fellowship. I eagerly look forward to seeing you all again:
in corporate worship, in fellowship—with donut holes.