I was in church this morning – which is a wonder in itself: I’m a night owl, and getting up early enough to be there by 10.30 is a huge challenge! I desperately needed a nap when I got home, and was barely awake enough to deal with the intricacies of reverse parking… But it was worth it, because church is wonderland.
No, I don’t mean I saw a white rabbit hurrying along and muttering about his whiskers. And there wasn’t a single mad hatter in sight. There’s a much more amazing kind of wonder in church: it’s the awesome wonder of a motley crew who are united in Christ and who, because of that, love one another.
Just the little half-pew where I was sitting was a small illustration: one English woman, one Russian guy, and me, an Israeli Jew. Though it’s not just about nationality or ethnicity – looking around my church I see people of different backgrounds, different class, different age groups, different dress style – one of the things I particularly love about my church is that there are people in a suit and tie alongside people in jeans and t-shirt, and all the shades in between. No uniform. No mould you have to fit into. Just people, each of us a unique individual human being – but in Christ we are one!
Not a homogeneous kind of “one”, not a club for people of a similar background, not even a club for people who share a common interest – we only have one thing in common: we’ve all been reborn through faith in Jesus, and therefore adopted into God’s family, so we’re all brothers and sisters and we love one another because we’re grateful recipients of God’s love and of his amazing grace!
Do we do it perfectly? Of course not. Do we sometimes tread on each other’s toes? Of course we do. We’re human. Sinful, fallible – God’s work in progress. But when I think of how much hate there is in the world out there (two minutes on Twitter is all it takes), I realise how wonderful this stuff is that I sometimes take for granted, the stuff that I see regularly in church.
God is doing something seriously amazing – it’s easy to miss it if we’re busy noticing the temporary imperfections. Like walking in on Michelangelo and saying: you missed a bit…
The amazing thing God is doing? He is building us together into a dwelling place for himself! Us, this motley bunch of flawed humans – to be a dwelling place for God, who is holy and perfect! This is awesome!
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 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 also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.