It’s a Sunday morning and the road is winding and the sun is sparkling. The trees are glistening with a light frost on the red and gold leaves. We come around the bend and there is the church overlooking a beautifully serene lake.
This is one of my earliest memories.
The Church has played a significant and central role in my life from the beginning. Our family went to church. It’s what we did on Sunday mornings.
After church, in those days, we often went to the country club for lunch. I remember the ketchup being in little glass cups with tiny spoons. Sometimes we went to the movies with Dad after lunch.
After my parents divorce church became something different for me. It was a refuge. It became a place where I knew I was accepted and cared for. The old ladies there would give me hugs and my Mimi was always quick with a mint when my throat went dry during the service.
It was in the church that I discovered I could lead and that people would even follow me. In the church was where I began to discover a love for learning.
There was just something about church.
I grew up and went away to college. I didn’t go to church much any more. Life was full of classes and friends. I was involved with a Christian organization on campus and that didn’t leave much time for church. During those years I began to embrace a youthful version of Christianity. Corporate gatherings needed to be exciting. Humor, entertainment, and multi-media were necessities to “worship.”
Every now and then I would return home and visit church. It was the same. Same liturgy. Same hymns. Same carpet. Same smells. Same old ladies giving me hugs. Same seats.
In my youthful angst the “same” of church seemed sad. Didn’t they know they needed to keep up with the times? Where was the band and the multimedia? How could they possibly compete in the crowded church economy by being the same?
As I look back on that time in my life I simply shake my head at my immaturity. There is beauty in the “same.” There is comfort in knowing that church will be there and there will be hugs and acceptance. Knowing the words to the songs that are sung each week allows for one to enter more fully into worship.
Now, I am a pastor. A pastor of a congregation that has its own set of weekly rhythms and “same.” They are beautiful. They are wonderful. They fill me each week.
I wonder if the “same” of our congregational gatherings is to reflect Jesus?
Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” The congregation is the continuing embodiment of Jesus in the world. We are “temples of the Holy Spirit.” I am beginning to grasp that not only are our individual lives to reflect Jesus but also our communal lives are to reflect him as well.
The church, the congregation, we are the body of Christ. When we gather we will reflect him. This includes reflecting Jesus in are “sameness.” There is beauty and comfort in knowing that it will be “just the same.”