A psalm. A song. For the Sabbath day.
1 It is good to praise the LORD
and make music to your name, O Most High,
2 proclaiming your love in the morning
and your faithfulness at night.
I grew up with Sunday being known only as the “Lord’s Day.”
My dad was a pastor and so Sunday mornings had a predictable rhythm of rising early and scurrying to fold the last of the bulletins. There would usually be discussions of the necessity of taking one car or two. In the very young years, we would travel past the homes of many of the people who would follow in our shadows to the place we called ‘church.’
In passing the home of the Wootens–a precious older couple who had been long time members of the church–I would consider the meaning of church. It is here I remember getting my first awakening that ‘church’ was something more than a place to attend. Doris Wooten had been bed-ridden, due to Multiple Sclerosis (I believe), for many years. The couple had no children and the congregation had become their family–different members, with varying skills would daily visit her home to care for her needs. I remember weekly visits where I would sit and read the Bible to her (I might have also sang for her–poor woman!), pausing every few minutes to suction the saliva from her mouth since she was too weak to swallow, while my sister would clean the house.
I never remember a time that Mrs. Wooten attended church. And yet, she was every much a part of our church as any singer in the choir, teacher in the classroom, or child in the nursery.
Mrs. Wooten helped me to come to understand that church cannot and should not be contained in a box. It isn’t a place we go. It’s a people group, gathered not around a task, but around a person–Jesus. This people group belongs to one another–they help each other understand what it means to belong together to the Lord–whether they can make it inside the “box” on Sunday or not.
The Scriptures have a variety of words to describe this gathering of people: Church. Family. Bride of Christ. Body of Christ. Some might read the Scriptures and wonder why the writers couldn’t settle on a consistent name and clear functioning of the church. (There is no specific outline for church governance or detailed order of service.) Yet, there is beauty and truth in all the words Scripture uses–I’m thankful for the picture each one paints.
Church–the ecclesia–the called-out assembly. We are called out from the world and gathered into each other under Christ. It’s togetherness. Psalm 92 describes how the evil are scattered–not so God’s people; they are gathered in. Gathered in to praise together, to pray together, to learn together, to serve together.
Family–It’s always messy…in a family there are always those who don’t clean up after themselves, who ruin game night with too much competition, or those whose vanity makes them think it’s all about them. Yet, we still love each other. A church family is no different. We still find a way to love each other–to draw out the best, conceal the worst, and encourage each other to try again.
The Bride of Christ–There’s a lot of anticipation in being a Bride. You want to look your best, behave your best (no matter what you see on Godzilla Brides), and for just one day, shine radiantly–and all for the benefit of someone else. As the Bride of Christ we are being prepared for the Big Day–live with anticipation!
The Body of Christ–A body has to work together. If one system fails, others will suffer. If one system is weak, it will draw on the strength of another. I am so grateful that God does not put the function of the church on one man’s back, but instead distributes the work to each person. Everyone has a part to play, with the the help of the Holy Spirit, in nurturing and growing the church to greater health.
I’m also thankful that the church is not just limited to those whom I will see today–it includes all those whose are the Lord’s, past and present. In my heart today I will worship with those who have been my family, the mutual inhabitants of the Body. I won’t drive by the Wooten’s house on my way to the church, instead I will carry them in my heart and be thankful for what they taught me about being Lord’s.
How about you? Who has taught you about what it means to be the Lord’s? Give thanks for them today!