A Thought for Today
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November 24, 2020
A Thought for Today
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Many people have told me through the years that they do not need the church. They can be good Christians better outside of the church. They often point out that the church is full of hypocrites. I have never thought that the church had a monopoly on Christians or on good people. The church is not meant to be a collection place for people to stand around and brag about how good they are. Church is much more complicated.
The church is meant to worship God. In the Book of Exodus, very specific instructions are given to build a tabernacle and to make everything perfect to use for worship. God desires our devotion. And yet, God requires more than lip service in a beautiful building. Jesus overturned the tables in the Temple because the Temple leaders were taking advantage of the poor. Our worship is meaningless to God if we are not working toward justice. Worship is the culmination of how we have lived our faith all week, rather than the lifting of the rug to brush our neglect underneath.
Church is meant to feed us. It is a gathering place for us to come together and learn more about God as we study and as we learn more through each person’s experiences of God. We can never claim to fully understand God and to have all knowledge, so our education never ends. That is the great thing about education. The more we learn, the more we realize that we will never have the time to learn all that we want to know. I can read the Bible on my own, but if I do, I will undoubtedly skim the parts I find boring. I will understand only from my own perspective, and I will miss out on the perspectives of others.
Church is meant to be a community of believers, supporting each other. We believe that God is so relational, that God is even in relationship with Godself through the Trinity. We are relational creatures. We can easily find relationships outside the church, but the church is family. When we are truly being the church, the love is unconditional. That is where we often fall. Too many people never experienced the unconditional love of God through their families of origin, so they come to the church with their wounds. No group of people can really achieve unconditional love, but at least the church has it as the goal. I think this is where we are often accused of being hypocritical. We talk about unconditional love, and we claim to have arrived at unconditional love, yet we fall short and people are hurt.
That was the problem with the United Methodist motto of Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors. We claimed that we already arrived. Our hearts, minds, and doors were not open to all people. It was false advertising. It is also the struggle I have with our mission statement. I need to be more careful with how I introduce it during our worship greeting. We do not live the teachings of Jesus as we share God’s unconditional love. It is who we want to be. I will be more careful to say, “We strive to live the teachings of Jesus as we share God’s unconditional love.” We are in the process of becoming the church—always.