What do you think of when you hear this word? My thoughts on this word are changing.
Growing up in a Lutheran church, I would think of church as Sunday morning sitting in the pews making lines and patterns in the velvet pew cushion while the pastor talked or my parents sang hymns. Or I would think of the story of Martin Luther and how he started the Lutheran church by breaking away from Catholicism.
Now that I’m older, I find myself longing to learn more about the church. Longing to better understand the difference between our local church (lower case c) and the Church (uppercase C) that's designed by God and built upon Peter in Acts. Longing to understand the connection between the two.
Longing to understand why I feel a deep sense of belonging and responsibility when I hear “and the church of Christ was born and the spirit lit the flame…” from Hillsong’s King of Kings song. Longing to partner with our church in doing and being what God commanded the Church to be in the Bible.
I’m at the beginning of my journey in this area, at just the tip of understanding some of the deep and ancient truths about God’s design and God’s love of his Church. While I am not a scholar or theologian, I want to pass along what I have learned so far because I think it will be a good foundation for our upcoming conversations.
Over the next three Wednesdays (April 26, May 3, May 10), our church gets to remember, dream, and plan our mission as the intersection of the local church and the big Church. We get to go back to the basics and set our priorities to align with God’s priorities for the Church.
I’ve been reading and rereading a book called “Letters to the Church” by Francis Chan. The second chapter is called “Sacred” and in it, Chan discusses God’s Church as sacred and has many examples from both the Old and New Testament to help the reader understand what he means by that. It’s a great chapter and I couldn’t even begin to explain it all, but what I really clung to in the chapter was all about the church being THE intersection between heaven and earth.
In the Old Testament, Solomon was in charge of building God’s temple. It took him a long time but finally when the temple was finished there was a dedication that is written:
“As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house. When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord saying, ‘For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.’” II Chronicles 7:1-3
The temple, which is an older word for church, was literally the place where heaven intersected with earth. God chose the temple to house his presence and his glory.
Fast forward to the New Testament. Jesus has died, risen, and ascended into heaven and the apostles are waiting together in Acts 2. Jesus’ followers were together and praying when fire again fell from heaven. This was the second time God sent his presence in the form of fire to earth. This time the temple wasn’t a building; people were the temple. Heaven intersected earth through people.
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” Ephesians 2:19-22
Apparently Paul, when writing this letter, used the plural form of “you” and the singular form of “temple” meaning that us together as a group of believers form the intersection between heaven and earth. When we gather together in belief, prayer, worship, service, we are bringing heaven to earth. It’s pretty unbelievable that God would choose to make his home among us…my head hurts just thinking about it. I don’t get it. I want to fully understand but it’s too good.
So that’s the beginning of my journey of understanding more about the church that I wanted to pass along. I hope this helps some of you better understand the word Church and helps us form a firm foundation before some fun and important conversations. I’m so grateful I get to journey and learn along with you, not just over the next few weeks, but long beyond that. I’m grateful that together we’re not only better, but we are the presence of God, his literal hands and feet on earth. I feel very proud to be the church and in the Church with you all.
I love the parallels between the temple dedication and Pentecost-He’s the same God but also making all things new. We read about Pentecost in Kids Church this week and sang “Rest on Us” for worship. The lyrics are really resonating after reading this - making it my prayer this week: “Fire and wind, come and do it again, come rest on us.”
Let's keep putting our logs together... he's such a faithful God. And it's a life-giving fire. Come, Holy Spirit.
Kara, I so resonated with this. Another thing I noticed is Jesus was on the earth in His resurrected body, but no big crowds like before. He spent his time with small groups of people, and passing on His peace and power to them. Small things, done in small circles of love will change the world. Let the adventure begin.