A young woman in our congregation posted, "I just want to say that I love my church family. You are amazing," on her social media account shortly after services this morning. I've been thinking about them quite a bit lately and I would have to agree. The young woman in question has a father suffering from stage 4 cancer - he also happens to be one of our elders. As this congregation pours out love to her and her family, it is no wonder she has come to such a conclusion. I am amazed, because their family is not the only family in this small congregation facing a major health crisis. In each situation, they have responded with phenomenal outpourings of love.
As a preacher, it is encouraging to hear such compliments about one's church. But then, that made me think how incongruous part of that statement is with reality. Consider how often we say something like, "my church." As minister I serve - a congregation entrusted to me. More importantly, I wonder how Jesus feels when compliments are made about His church. Better yet...I wonder how He feels when His bride is complimented.
There are quite a few things to love about the church. For example, I love that she gathers together to study God's word. I love when she is in prayer. I still get goosebumps when a roomful of people is praying out loud, and the sound of many voices talking to God fills the room. I love how she still treasures the past by honoring things like the Lord's Supper. She is also great at making strangers friends, friends companions, and companions family. When she gathers in fellowship it isn't like workers gather for pizza at the bowling alley, it is like family gathering to celebrate Christmas, open gifts to one another and enjoy a feast with one another. These examples are but a few of the things which make the church beautiful. It's like that feeling we guys get when we see our wives relaxing in a pair of jeans, an old button-down shirt we forgot about, feet propped up while drinking coffee on the back porch. It's that comfortable sort of beauty we take for granted until that magic moment when you realize just what a blessing she is.
But then there are those special moments when the bride of Christ takes my breath away in her beauty. Like when she built a new home for a widow whose previous home burned down. Or, like when clothing is gathered to clothe the homeless. But it's not just the big things, sometimes that magnificent beauty shines through when the lawn is mowed for the couple struggling with the husband's stroke. Then there was the wheelchair ramp built by three retirees. It was amazing to watch as she filled five refrigerators in three houses to help feed the family called in to say goodbye to a loved one with terminal cancer. I think this, and more, is a special sort of beauty in the bride of Christ. When she shares, that selfless, self-sacrificing sort of sharing, it's as if she has pulled out all the stops to show her beauty - for her Groom, and for all others to see. It's a lot like a wedding day when the bride is her best, her very best.
There is a phrase describing the feeling of those beholding the bride of Christ is at her best - "everyone was filled with a sense of awe." That same passage of Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit to tell us what Jesus sees when He beholds His bride in her great beauty. One other feature is described in that passage. I've left it to last, because it is the best aspect of the bride's beauty. It is when she is selfless enough to share her Groom with others, so that they too may become a part of the bride of Christ. On the first day the world beheld her, three thousand were added to her number. I like the way the passage ends, "Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved."
I just want to say that I love my church family. You guys are amazing.