Last Sunday, I checked in at GoodSam on Facebook with a status, "Being church with Makenna." That's my youngest daughter and the reason I am even in church. But that status stuck with me all week. So when I was asked to write a blurb for this week's e-Newsletter, I titled it "Being Church, Clothing Christ" because we were seeking donations of kids' clothes for a widowed mother of two. It warmed my heart that the congregation I now call family wanted to help this woman in our community who is not a member. I don't know if this woman even goes to church, but she works at a grocery store nearby. Sunday, they are giving me a Mother's Day Card to present to her with a check to help with her financial burdens, now that she is a single mother. What an awful thing for her to spend this Mother's Day with two grieving children, as she herself grieves the loss of their father. But what a blessing to be a conduit of God's love, grace and mercy, through my church family.
Beyond the warm feelings I got when the church offered to help and asked me to be the messenger, I was inspired and awed by the universal truth that we are, indeed, God's hands and feet at work in the world. In reality, that's what "being church" means. We are to be the conduits that carry the essence (call it Holy Spirit, if you will) of God into our homes and communities. That should cause you to stop and reflect, as it has me all this week.
It doesn't matter your level or brand of faith. The church building where you spend your Sundays (or whatever day you worship) is of very little importance. It's the congregation of people, each individual member of "the Body," that makes us Church...and that's a capital "C" for the universal congregation of believers.
For those of us who chose to label ourselves "Christian," WE, as the spiritual descendants of Peter, are that Church built upon the rock. In fact, Peter's name literally means "rock" (Look up Petra in the Greek). WE are Church. So being Church takes on so much more of a personal flavor. There is a lot of personal responsibility to being Church. It means doing something; being something; being different.
There are a lot of people that GO to church; but sadly, it seems very few of them know how to BE.
I was one of those "goers" for a very long time, but then I fell out of practice. I stopped going. I became very jaded, cynical and lost my identity as Church, for awhile. I gradually came back to the "being" but I still wouldn't darken the door of a church building because of all the contempt built up in my heart.
It wasn't until my mom was dying of cancer that the return to "being" was completed.
She was diagnosed in early Summer 2014. Within 17 months, cancer that started in her breast had metastasized and was ravaging her 66-year-old body. She chose quality of life over quantity and enjoyed her children and grandchildren, even a great-grandchild, for that last year and a half. I was blessed to be able to spend Summer 2015 with her in Noblesville, IN. I took three trips up to see her in 2015, the last was over Thanksgiving Weekend. She died that Sunday as I was just about to come home.
Mom's dying wish was to see me and my girls back in church. We hadn't gone regularly since my youngest was born. So to honor Mom's wish, I invited my girls to church and picked the one closest to their home because it had a cool name, Good Samaritan. I didn't care that it was United Methodist, just that it had a good reputation in the community and it was closeby...walking distance, even.
In the last year and four months at that church, minus the Summer 2016 which I spent with my widowed father in Indiana, I've seen myself fully return to "being Church." My cynicism and jadedness has faded and is being replaced with hopefulness and peace. I feel that I'm part of a family of like-minded believers, again; people that aren't just there to go through the motions or talk a good spiritual game. I joined a home group of these people who took me in, fed me (in more ways than one) and have become solid friends. I've seen this family serve together, play together, let their hair down, but get serious when a need arose. They are real. I call GoodSam the church of misfit toys. But that's just what the apostles were, too. Jesus didn't hang out with the politicians, the polished, the church leaders. I feel like today, he'd be found in the pubs, pool halls and hooka bars.
I know that Mom is in heaven smiling down on me this Mother's Day Weekend. I kept my promise. My daughter was baptized in the church last year. We aren't faithful attenders, but we are getting better at being Church on a daily basis. And that's the point, isn't it?