That is the church and why it exists - coming alongside young people - all people, and offering them time, space, patience, affirmation, opportunity, comfort, support, guidance, and wisdom as they navigate the world around them. Telling our stories and listening to how their story is unfolding even if it's different, especially if it's different.
What is the church and why does it exist?
Luke 22:10- When it was time, he, Jesus, sat down, all the apostles with him and said, “You’ve no idea how much I have looked forward to eating this meal with you…” Taking the cup, he blessed it...taking the bread, he blessed it and broke it and gave it to them saying this is my body broken for you.
It happens every year and is one of my favorite events to be a part of here at Grace church. It is our Women’s Retreat. Out of all the speakers, themes, topics, lessons, books, locations, craft projects, songs, things gone well and things we never did again, the best part of every single retreat is the end. The tables are pushed aside and the chairs are formed into a circle and we share in communion. I sometimes sense by that point in the day, people are just going through the motions and circling the wagons for communion cause they know it's the last thing and then they are outta there! But then it happens...we start to share. We start to recap the day, lift up one another in support and prayer, talk about the highlights and things that surfaced through the Holy moments of the day. We come back to center and it is as if time slows down - we are suspended in the holy for just a moment and connected in a way like no other time. It's beautiful. Moving. Inspiring. Raw. Messy. Breathtakingly mysterious and powerful.
That is the church and why it exists - feeding one another the kind of soul food that helps us carry on when we are tired and weary, or when we have had enough and just want it to be over and go home. Sharing life lessons and life struggles so that no one person carries it all. Remembering the presence of God with us, Emmanuel, Jesus in the passing of the cup and the breaking of the bread. Being together, building one another up, and making room for each other in the circle; making room at the table of God.
What is the church, and why does it exist?
Matthew 25:40 I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me...Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me - you did it to me.
A hot meal every week for anywhere between 30-115 people. A mini-parade for folks in lock down. Food drives for people. Food and supply drives for the animal shelter. Unloading and distributing food off the food trucks. Blood drives. After school tutoring. Booths at the fair. Support for local businesses and nonprofits. Christmas gifts for complete strangers. Thanksgiving baskets for families of the neighboring school. Meeting space for a dozen different groups who don’t always clean up after themselves. Fundraisers and capital campaign projects. And that’s the easy stuff. Walking in the pride parade for your son, daughter, or grand-daughter even if you don’t understand or agree but you love them, or walking for your friend who’s family shut them out. Sitting in on a protest because you need to do something with all the emotions around a situation - you need to feel like you have a voice. Writing to your senators and government leaders even when those around you tell you it doesn’t do any good. Participating in book studies that ask the hard questions and give space for honest reflection and answers. Being intentional and making friends with those who are different from you in order to show your kids the world is bigger than we sometimes let it be. Sponsoring refugee families even when your family doesn’t agree or think it's a good idea. Not walking away from the church because things get tough and the future uncertain but staying the course when others have left.
That is the church and why it exists - connecting with the world and those in it in meaningful and significant ways; ways that matter. Engaging in the community and taking a stand in the midst of injustice, giving voice to the voiceless, and using our power to empower others.
If we believe God is a God of love, forgiveness, compassion, hope, and goodness, then that is what we are to reflect. If we believe God is generous, faithful, and present, then that is what we and who we are to be. God works through presence and God needs a people to be present to and through and a people to intentionally create spaces for God to be experienced by others.
We are to be a part of God’s mission to restore all creation to God’s presence. Despite our differences. Despite how vaccines and masks have become divisive. Despite politics. Despite different backgrounds and expectations. Despite prejudices. Despite the myriad of things that try to divide us. Despite it all, we are all the church. We are called to live our lives in a way that shows, invites, reveals, inspires, and challenges those who have eyes to see and ears to hear AND allow the presence of God in others to do the same for us, that everyone may come to recognize and hold to faith in Jesus Christ. That is the church and that is why it exists.
How will you be a part of its reality?
Pastor Jenothy Irvine