What's Church Got to Do With It?
What's church got to do with it?
That's the question we've been wrestling with at church this Lent. And I have to be perfectly honest - I haven't been blown away by any of the possible answers.
For so long we have been searching for a church where we experience true community. A community of believers who really live life together - in every sense of the word. But I'm starting to believe that's an old-fashioned sense of what church is. That as much as I would like my close-knit community of people to be people I go to church with, it's just not going to happen.
So we've been struggling with church these last few months. Struggling with where to worship on Sunday mornings. Struggling with what we find to be most important when we attend a worship service. Struggling to find a balance between our deep longing for Christian community and knowing that no church really has it. At least not a church that we've been able to find in all of our searching.
Anyone who knows me well knows how frustrated I am with "church." Frustrated that we can't find a place that has good music, good community, and good theology all at the same time. In an honest attempt to let go and find where God is calling us, we've visited several churches over the last couple of months - all with different denominational backgrounds. And every single time we leave feeling like something is missing. Like that's just not the right place for us. Most often it's because they don't baptize babies or they don't have communion.
But this week - something happened that brought that Lenten study question to the forefront of my thoughts. The answer finally clicked in my head. Before I tell you what happened, let me give you a tiny bit of background.
We bring our two-year old to worship with us. She's not always quiet - in fact, she's usually not - but it's important for us to worship as a family. She doesn't ever go to the nursery - and although we'll take her out for a cookie every once in a while to regroup, we never leave worship simply because she's rambunctious.
Is it a lot of work? You bet. Do we worship the way we used to? Absolutely not. Do we sometimes get nasty looks when she's noisy. Yup. But we wouldn't have it any other way.
This past Sunday, as we got ready for church, she kept asking for "com-mune" (communion). In fact, she was so excited for communion she refused to eat breakfast - AND we were 30 minutes early. We reminded her that we have to sing some songs, say some prayers, and listen to some stories before we get communion. And like every other Sunday, she sang her heart out during the sermon, couldn't wait to kneel when it was time to pray, and asked for "more" when she was done eating her communion wafer. Every time it happens, D & I both tear up. Sunday, we looked at each other and said,
We can't leave this place. She loves it here.
And today, as we were listening to Pandora, David Crowder's How He Loves came on. She looked at me with her excited face and started singing ... How he loves! Oh he loves us! Then she proceeded to get on one knee, then the other, then both knees, saying,
One knee, other knee, two knees ... Like at church!
She went on to talk about praying and about communion and about cookies ... and I about lost it as I was folding the laundry. I just looked at her and said,
That's right! That's what we do at church. We pray, we sing songs, and we get communion.
This week, my precious toddler has answered that question for me.
What's church got to do with it?
Church is where we go to pray as a body of Christ. Sure - we can pray in other places - but there's just something so holy about getting on your knees in that sacred place with so many other people. And perhaps most importantly for that toddler of mine - and for my husband and I - Church is where we go to receive Holy Communion. It's the place we go when we need to be physically fed with Christ.
In time, we may discover the kind of community we're longing for at church. Or, we may never find it at church. But we will most definitely receive the living Christ. And by receiving the living Christ each and every week, we are fulfilled and empowered to go create that community in the world around us.
This post was originally published during Lent in 2014. While many things in our life are different now, many of the things expressed in this post remain true for us today.