A few months back, a commenter on my blog asked why people even need to go to church. I have thought of hundreds of reasons, and could probably write a whole series of posts about that question. But this week, one of those reasons became very clear to me. One of reasons being a part of a church community is so important is because being a part of a church community teaches members how to be in meaningful, faithful, sacred relationships with others.
Certainly, scripture teaches us humans are made in the image of God, and that our creation was very good. Scripture also teaches us to love God, love ourselves, and love our neighbor. And there is much scripture that teaches us what community means, the value of every person to making the community whole, and what behaviors are needed to be loving people made in the image of God.
Now, I know the Church and her leaders have often failed at living in that specifically Christian way. But belonging to a church means you are committing to trying to live the life of love intentionally, authentically, and humbly. The Church is where we learn how to lovingly live through conflict. The Church is where we learn how to kneel at the altar rail right next to someone who has hurt us, who disagrees with us, who has challenged us, and see the commonality in our outstretched arms, waiting for the healing body of Christ. The Church is where we learn how to say, “I’m sorry,” “I was wrong,” “I messed up,” and “I forgive you.” The Church is the place where we can hold the fragility of human experience, the sinful nature of each of us, and the beauty of God’s creation in tension, and experience the depths of love known only through the eyes of Christ.
Maybe Church is not a place like that for you. For me, the Church makes me a better human being, and a better child of God. The Church keeps me honest, loves me when I do not deserve it, and molds me into a servant of God who can share that same life-giving, liberating love with others. I am so grateful to be a part of a church, so honored to be a priest in the Church, and so overwhelmed by the power of love I find powerfully within the community of the Church. If that is a not a gift you have received, I invite you to my church, anytime. If that is a gift you have received, I invite you to give thanks to God for God’s gift of the Church to us. And if you are giving thanks this week for your own church experience, I encourage you to give that gift to someone else.