Saturday, November 2, 2013

When You Are Looking For Church

Tucked on the side of one howling hill, far away from the nearest small town, stands an old county church. It is partially cloaked by evergreens that hang their shaggy arms low, under the weight of age. White paint clings to the century old boards and simple hand-crafted windows line the building on three sides to let the morning sun penetrate the interior and the warm glow of a sunset to flood every crevice and corner.

A modest cross with peeling paint, caps the roof, reaching toward the sky.

Dark clouds hung low and a veil of moisture was visible as we bent into the uphill walk. Sharp drops of rain pelted our faces and the cold pierced our skin. The black iron sign arched above, framing the chilly scene. The sign reads "Eclipse."

This place known as the Eclipse Church and Cemetery, is said to have had the first little pine coffin buried around 1890, because of the death of a baby. It wasn't long before the wildness of these hills claimed more lives and the area was eventually fenced off and set apart as a community cemetery. The church was built in 1916 and it has served as a welcome retreat to gather in the big events of life. Celebrations such as weddings, holidays and baptisms would bring people from miles away. People found comfort in this tranquil place in times of deep sorrow and tears as people pass from this life. Indeed these walls have seen the span of what makes up all of life and death for decade after decade in this, still, wild and largely untamed prairie.

I've heard some people think that "church" is obsolete and antiquated like this old building.

Some folks think that only weak people need to do church and too many times I've heard the statement that church buildings are just full of hypocrites. While some of that can certainly be true it makes me think about why I love church.

The word "church" is rendered in the New Testament from the Greek term ekklesia which is formed from two Greek words meaning "an assembly" and "to call out" or "called out ones." So, the New Testament church is a body of believers who have been called out from the world by God to live as his people under the authority of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23).

In plain English, -we are the church.

To have a church building is a gift. It is there that we gather with other folks, to be strengthened, to use the talents we have been given to serve people and quite frankly, to grow-up. We tend to compartmentalize church. Like it is something we do once a week, instead of something that we are all the time. As long as this world remains as we know it, church will remain because Jesus said that it would.

When we believe that Jesus is who He said He is, then we have His Spirit in us wherever we go. And so many times we are the only church that people will experience, because they are afraid to step foot in the building.

Part of the problem is there is a moment when we trust in Jesus and a lifetime journey of becoming more like Him. Therefore church buildings are full of humans who are on the journey yet who still mess up all. the. time. We are wanting to be more like Jesus, yet acting like we don't. So there we are, being hypocrites. Wanting to do good and failing to do the good we want to do. (read here?)

That is a lot to wrap my mind around.

And if you are reading this and I have offended you, can I just stop right here and tell you that I am deeply sorry? Would you please, please, please forgive me? And the next time it happens would you tell me straight out and give me a change to make amends with you again? Because I am just a mess and I want to love you the way God loves you, but I'm still learning what that is.

When I first trusted that Jesus loved me enough to die on the cross for my sin, I heard this man say, "When I meet a new person in the church I apologize for offending them, because if they are around me very long it will happen." 

Now I realize this is a little crazy, but isn't it just true? So many times I didn't even mean to hurt a person, yet do. Then it seems, no matter what you do, the person still rejects you? Jesus is a non-negotiable for me, but all the other stuff... it's just life and details and I'm a dreamer that believes Love can triumph over it all.

A church building is intended to be a place where people gather together... to laugh and learn, to be known and accepted. Where there is singing, music, people hugging, children running and laughing and crawling, with faces glowing from the laughter, down the isles and in the halls of the building we call our church home, but I never want to forget.... that I am the church.

 Against the backdrop of rolling sand-hills, the cross of the little country church rises like a beacon toward the sky. Indeed when Jesus breathed His last breath on that cross a solar eclipse overshadowed the land, an earthquake rattled the ground, dead people came back to life and started to walk around town, and the veil in the Temple was torn. (read it here?)

The cross stands as a reminder of the price He paid.

Like this little country church, the doors of His church are unlocked waiting to swing wide open, in welcome to those who want to enter.Then we become the tangible, living, breathing church sent out into all the world.

Oh may our lives and hearts point people to the One who loves us all so deeply that He hung on the cross and said, "It is finished."

Special thanks to Linda Tucker for allowing us to visit Eclipse.
And to Amy for going on the adventure with me and taking some of these pictures.
** Love you. So. Much. **

Counting Blessings Here....

#1245 To meet once a week with my little friend Christina
#1246 So many baptisms in our church. Beautiful thing every single time.
#1247 Husband home for a week. Crazy in love with that man.
#1248 Day lillies and roses are still blooming. 

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