Over the last three weeks I was estranged from my home church in Louisville, KY – Sojourn (East Campus). It is over these past three weeks that I feel as if I am breathing a polluted form of oxygen. Excuse the bad analogy, but I think it captures it well. I have still been attending church and I have still been hearing the Gospel preached. It just doesn’t feel right. I don’t feel bad, I just don’t feel like it has been enough. The word that we translate to mean church can also be translated community or gathering.
In America it seems that it is more common for us to do church than it is for us to be church. A church does not exist between a couple of walls or on a few days out of the week. The church is. The church is not people who sit around judging others for being more sinful than they are, or for drinking alcohol or anything like that – the church is a group of people who unite of the idea that “Christ Jesus came to into the world to save sinners of whom we are the foremost.” The church that is acting as it should, should never look at someone and think “they are far too sinful” instead they should look at them and say “Welcome! We always have room for more.” The church is a family, a community.
I have admitted to several people this past year, that if not for my Church family, I probably would have dropped out of seminary and moved back to California – that’s for another blog though. One of the reasons that I was most excited to get back to Louisville is so that I can worship with them again. It has little to do with the musical style, or the preaching – which are both rad by the way – but because of how the church exists in community. A few weeks ago I along with a couple other people who I have never met before got together to help a person who none of us knew move. This is how the church should exist. Helping orphans and widows and those in need while always rejoicing in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I have felt starved over the past few weeks because I miss the people – I miss the church. We, as Christians, should not be accustomed to walking in to church on Sunday a few minutes late sitting in the same seat and leaving right as service gets out week after week. That’s not church that’s free entertainment. Church exists in the ruggedness of every day life where you pray for one another, bear one another’s burdens, love one another. Where we serve together. Where we point to the resurrected Jesus, in whom and for whom all things were created, the author and finisher of our faith.
If we are truly engaging the church as we should then being separated from our congregation should be painful. This is why Church Discipline exists simply in the matter of cutting the person off from the community. In today’s world we can simply go down the street to another Church and “do church” there. But if we are truly engaged in our church congregation and we are cut off we will feel as if we are foreigners, as if we are breathing dirty air. It won’t feel right. Our only response then should be to turn to Jesus and repent of our sin so that we are able to rejoin the congregation that we love.
Yesterday, I was happy to rejoin the church that I faithfully attend and serve at in Louisville. It felt so natural to be back. I had to do my best to hide my euphoria at times so that I wouldn’t freak anybody out. Although I spent 3 weeks with family away from the church returning to Sojourn yesterday felt as if I was truly home. I think this goes along well with what Jesus says concerning family in Mark 3:34. He states that his family are those who are doing the will of God. We should feel at home with those who are on the same mission that you are. Dedicated to proclaiming the risen savior who takes away the sins of the world. Now I’m not writing the other churches off as not being part of the Universal Church but it’s difficult to engage in a church that you are just visiting and thus when at home you have a church where you feel inextricably tied to the mission, the focus, the people, the preaching it almost feels like cheating.
Happy to be home.