Our family is a band of church gypsies. The theological education of our children, the spiritual development (so much as it can be up to any mortal) of our individual members, and the devotion to and worship of our Lord God is always first and foremost in our thoughts and deeds. However, we do not have decades-long ties to any particular church in our area. We have been vagabonds, moving through and among congregations as deftly as, well…gypsies through the countryside.I share this with you today because what troubles me, greatly, are the lines of division that have been carved among believers; lines that are meant to separate ourselves from each other. Particularly as we speed toward an election that has been extremely divisive for our nation, I am troubled at the “us versus them” mentality within the body of Christ. Denomination against denomination. Conservative against liberal. Sister against brother. We have allowed our ideologies to taint the gospel, to mar the message of one body in Christ, to defame the unity for which Jesus expected us to strive. When we are a house divided, we are easy to dismiss. To ignore. To refute. When we cannot treat one another charitably, how can we be expected to be light in an increasingly uncharitable world?
I know that there is no perfect church, for each community is comprised of imperfect sinners. And we each are (hopefully) doing our best to live out the gospel. Thus, if a community other than yours, or an individual believer, is acting within the bounds of scripture, yet doing something you wouldn’t do or in a way that you wouldn’t do it, might I suggest you look upon them with “Pollyanna” eyes? Find the good they are striving toward, before lambasting them and tearing down what their character or denomination or expression of faith. Remember that you and your church are just as imperfect and therefore in as much need of Christ’s grace as they.Our family has been a part of numerous communities of believers in our eight plus years in rural Colorado; each like a particular bloom in my heart, that when I look back upon them all I see a garden. A tapestry from which we have learned and in which we have grown There have been none we left on poor terms; and we pray that each continues their ministry and grows in vibrancy. We have simply been called to move on at different times; some are obvious in hind-sight, others less so. But our fluidity through these communities has left a beautiful mark in me, each one something I would regret deeply to have missed.
I’ve loved the liturgy of the mainline churches we’ve attended; and yearn for it on the holy days when reverence is what the heart desires. I’ve delighted in the dancing of non-denominational settings, where being yourself before the Lord is greatly expected; and where the community knows you and accepts you and you don’t have to rehash your journey every 2 months. I’ve relished delving deep into the Word, going verse-by-verse in other non-denominational (-but-we’re-big-enough-that-we-really-are-our-own-denomination) congregations. And I’ve cherished breaking bread weekly with another community who sought to truly live out missional lives. I’ve learned from the vitality of a small group gathered primarily to make a difference in their community. And oh how I miss that one group of lifers who just got each other, cared for and supported one another through whatever life slung at them.To have missed what each community taught me, what they drew out of me, would be a great tragedy to my spirit. I love that as a member of the body of Christ, I can move within these people and glean from them the beauty therein. Each place literally lightens my heart when I think of it, of the people who welcomed us and loved us and taught us and worshiped with us. I can’t wait for the coming, epic reunion in Heaven when we’ll all be together as one family…worshiping our Lord together. What a party that will be! Laughter I can’t even imagine now and warmth and love I can’t fathom here. The smile on my face at the very thought is so wide my cheeks are starting to hurt. That is joy.
Thus, I want to encourage you, visit some churches in your area. Go outside of your brand of worship. Recognize that just as you are individually created to enjoy a particular flavor of service, so are others; and that we have so much to gain when we respectfully share our way of drawing nearer to our Lord. Stretch yourself and meet your extended family in Christ. See how they worship, and do not judge, but enjoy their expression of love for our Heavenly Father. Listen to their teachings, and so long as they keep with scripture, learn from them. Shake their hands, let them welcome you, as family you may yet not know. Return their smiles. Open your heart. Be blessed by them, and in turn bless them. For one day, those of us who believe, will all be set at the King’s table for a feast in honor of His Son, celebrating His Love and Grace for each and every one of us. Thus, if it is to be so in the age to come, should it not also be now?
Lord, may Your kingdom come here on earth,
as it is and shall be in Heaven.