Church is such an interesting place. There is glory, fellowship, illumination and clarity but at the same time there are also often so many needs, pains and unresolved issues. Theology meets sociology at the Church and there are so many that need social services.
Sometimes I have a lot to say at Church but last night God made me very quiet. I sat with people but for the most part I just watched. I watched the Pastor minister. I watched an older man struggle with the dilemma of helping a couple who had been displaced from their home or give two first time visitors that smelled strongly of cheap cigarettes a ride home who had been left without a ride. I saw families living in expectation for a loved one who would return home for thanksgiving and others who had lost loved ones and would never see that person again at a dinner table in this life quietly struggle with that loss. Prosperity walks side by side with poverty at the Church. Wisdom sits next to naive foolishness there. Girls and boys dance the dance of courtship. Friends laugh. People struggle with barely flickering smiles. Translators translate. Some came in rich already but everyone leaves with something eternal. Even those who wonder if anything was there that can help them practically in their barely tolerable situation in this season of life. Eternal words sink deep. Fellowship is eternal.
"But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel." - Hebrews 12:22-24 ESV
I remember being the stranger coming in the doors of a Church. I rode a bus which brought men from a mission house to this nice white washed Church filled with families and sweet elderly people. I remember being self conscious and feeling like a stranger. I didn't smell like cigarettes but I felt like I did. I had the look in my eyes that I saw in those two men's eyes last night... the ones who needed a ride.
The older man decided he couldn't help the couple but he took the two visitors home and the couple who was displaced got a night, or a couple nights, reprieve somewhere. They got help in the 11th hour.
"We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints - and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything - in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you - see that you excel in this act of grace also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich." - 2 Corinthians 8:1-9 ESV
It baffles me many times. I am not hard like I once was. People's needs affect me. Like that older man I can't help everyone. Last night I wasn't led to help anyone. I prayed but I wasn't the ride and no one is waking up on my couch this morning who doesn't normally live here. The needs did get met. Those needs might not have been met but they did... at the Church.
Jesus purposely became poor so we could be rich. There is a grace that is only seen at the Church. It is place of great joy and poverty. Sometimes it is hard to be a part of but it is always a great honor to see God do what He does there.