what is it about church?

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God. – Ephesians 2:19-22

image from Smithsonian Magazine

I have been thinking about what is it that makes church “work”? What is it that is different, or unique? What makes the experience distinct from any other gathering of people in a public space?

It’s not necessarily the deep emotion. I’ve felt emotion singing You’ll never walk alone with 100,000 at a soccer game; I have stood on a field packed with people listening to The Star Spangled Banner; I wept like a baby at a James Taylor concert one night when he and Carol King followed Shower the People with You’ve Got a Friend.

Also, church is not the only context where we experience spirituality. As human beings we all have the raw material of spirit, it’s how we were created. We have the potential to make a connection with God with every breath we take – spirit is in a sense the most human thing about us.

Yet church is different. It takes what is natural and inherent about who we are as beings created in the image of God and it brings it to a place that is absolutely unique and distinct and qualitatively different from any other meaningful connection.

It’s “Jesus”

The answer – of course – is Jesus.

I have been thinking a lot about the classic John’s Gospel story where a man had been hanging out at the same place for 38 years, waiting for something to happen (I even blogged about it one day last week but I can’t let it go!). Legend had it that an angel would “trouble the waters” and the first person in the pool got healed.

I believe that every single human being has an angel who troubles the waters – that is the enormous potential of our creation as spiritual beings. However, much like the unused tissue of the appendix, that part of us is generationally/evolutionally/historically unused. Like the man content to rest by the pool every day for 38 years, we need to meet Jesus if we ever want to experience healing.

What is natural, the most human part of us, is activated by the presence of Jesus. It was always there, and we have clues and hints from the emotion of singing together, the spirit of waving our flags, and the sense of community from being in a crowd. But it takes Jesus to truly release our identity as people who bear the image of God.

This is what makes church so amazing! It is more than the idea of community, the emotion of singing together, the excitement of waving our Christian flag; it is the fact that – because of Jesus – who we are created to be as God’s children is now fully (or on the way to fully) engaged!

Everything else is a clue, a hint, a taste of the real thing. The real thing is church. Otherwise it is just an angel troubling waters we will never reach without the presence of Jesus.

Happy Monday. In love and because of love – DEREK

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