14 Nov Meeting God
Many of us have spent the best part of our lives going to church, but what is “church” exactly, and why do we go? There are many ways of describing ‘church”, but in my understanding, church is a place where the community of faith gather to hear Scripture, pray together and worship God. Founded by Jesus, the Church (with a capital “C”) is the instrument of salvation whose members are taught and equipped to “proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15). Therefore the Church – and churches – are holy.
God, who is present in our prayer and worship, makes his dwelling place in the church. Although people are fond of saying, “God is everywhere”, I believe that the place where we most commonly encounter God is in the church. Indeed, in some churches where prayer has been offered for centuries, it is not uncommon to discover a real feeling of God’s “presence” – a tangible sense of holiness or sanctity.
You will often hear me referring to St Martha’s as God’s holy church. I usually caution against referring to “our church”, since that can lead to a church which is made in the image of its members, rather than in the image of Christ. In all the conversations I have had with members of St Martha’s, the one thing which all mention is that St Martha’s is a “friendly church”. That has been my experience too, which I was delighted to discover. However, I wish that more people had thought more closely about why they come to church, and instead had said something like “St Martha’s is a holy place where I can meet God.”
Friendship is an important part of our life as a Christian community. The friendships we make at church are blessed by the Holy Spirit. But that is only part of the story. In church we also meet God, who is in fact our best friend: faithful, truthful and reliable. Whenever we gather in church for worship, we are entering into holy space, where we attend to what our friend God is saying to us in word, prayer, song and sacrament.
God loves the Church. Whenever a church goes off the rails, which happens from time to time, it is like a wound in the side of Christ: God weeps for the church which has lost its way. Faithful churches – by which I mean the ones that believe in and profess the Nicene Creed – grow in the power of God’s Spirit, often spectacularly. This happens when prayer is strong and the Holy Spirit is regularly invited to kindle the fire of faith in the hearts of his people.
There is much love for St Martha’s among its members. Long may that continue! As long as we recognize that the church is God’s church, and not our own, we will continue to survive and flourish. Modeled on the image of Christ, we offer ourselves daily in service to God, our fellow members and to the community around us. We pray for God’s blessing and guidance as we look to the future with hope. As the Church, we are God’s holy people.
In the love and spirit of Christ