A special Sunday take away
The Sunday before Christmas our church has a tradition. We dress up a little more, put on the best of our Sunday best, and we meet at our Sunday School leaders houses for a special brunch. The time is a time of sweet fellowship and time to just be together and enjoy each other‘s company. We are all late to service usually because we’ve spent too much time visiting!
This month Mike has been doing a series on characters of the Bible story and today was no different. Today being the last Sunday before Christmas he focused on Christ and how He is the most significant person of history. I think the biggest takeaway was that when Jesus died on the cross he declared, “It is finished.” Why? Because it’s a reminder that there is nothing else we need to do to earn salvation. Jesus did it all. We just need to accept.
Then we went out to Twogood’s barn. Ryan and Rachel Twogood are a family in our church that have built a lovely barn and they love to host events and have people out to parties at their place. Tonight we went for stargazing and then we had chili and shared Christmas goodies with each other. It was nice and cozy in the barn. We didn’t get to see Saturn and Jupiter due to cloud cover but the moon was so bright and gorgeous.
You might think this all sounds idyllic and perfect and wish your church was this way. We’ve had years when we wished this too. Our church has come back to this after a hard, hard season. Once upon a time, many many years ago, our church was known as the “snob” church in town. People didn’t feel like they were welcome I guess. I sometimes laughed when people would tell me that I went to the “snob” church or the “rich” church, as it was also called, because we were anything but part of a clique or rich. Looking back, I see that people called us this because they saw our love for one another and they felt left out.
Over time, people in our church got tired of the name and we tried to make adjustments. Tried to change. And as any time when a church tries to make itself over to please others, especially those of the world, we started to fall apart. People leaving, hurt feelings, etc. Since our pastor of 20 years left a few years we’ve struggled. One of the few good things we could say about our church during strategic planning meetings was that we had good music and even that started falling apart. We’ve lost many families that we loved.
A few months ago Mike did a sermon series on relationships in the church. He encouraged us to take care of one another. He encouraged us to love one another through the difficult times. He encouraged us to fellowship together. He encouraged us to bear each other‘s burdens. There were so many times during that sermon series that I thought, “That used to be us! We used to do that! That’s why we were the snob church.“
It was revelatory to finally understand that. We were doing everything right (not perfect, but right) and Satan didn’t like that. He sent lies and gossip into our midst. He made us feel as if we were doing something wrong so we started to change. We wanted to be loved and accepted by our community. We changed and we lost what we had. Now we’re getting that back. We’re enjoying being together. We have love for one another. We are more full of hope and joy then we’ve been for years.
But my question would be – how do we keep our arms open? How do we show others that our bubble is not impermeable? How do we extend that love to others in our community and to our friends and family? I think first we have to be at our healthiest and do the things that we are doing and completely and totally get back our love and care for one another again before we can reach out to others. Once we do that, we will have so much love that we can let that love overflow to others. And we’ve begun to do that.
So if you’re looking at this idyllic day with jealousy in your eyes, don’t. Just like anything that looks too good to be perfect it is. We’ve had our bumps and bruises, we have our scars. We still miss those cherished members of our community that aren’t here anymore. But we are a work in progress, just as you are, and we want to welcome you into our mess. If you live in our community don’t be put off by what you see, just be encouraged. We can love on you too. We’ve been through the hard times. We’re still going through the hard times. And I think it’s made us a little better because of it.