“Church” is many things. It is the place of Good News for life. That God loves us. That Jesus died that our sins could be forgiven. Church is where Jesus can be found. He meets us there, in the fellowship of believers.
Church is the miracle place, where spoken word from God, Himself, combines with soaring music of massed choir, and the hymns of the people to make for “wonder, love and praise” in our hearts.
It’s where mission is conceived, sent out, and supported. It is where the Spirit stirs the heart, and new hope is born, and individuals and groups decide to live lives of greatness, and goodness, believing that with God’s help they can change the world.
It’s a place where vision comes, and people are drawn out of themselves to take chances with their own lives, and strangely determine, like Joan of Arc, to “dare, and dare, and dare, until I die.”
It is so many things, this mystical company of people.
But it struck me this week that, in some ways, friendship in church, is the strangest and most wonderful thing of all.
Jesus, after all, did much of His ministry, at the tables of friendship. In the Upper Room. At Mary and Martha’s home. At Zacchaeus’ house. “Come down, Zacchaeus. I am coming to your house for dinner tonight. To talk with you, as a friend.”
A dear friend of many years came to see me a while ago. She is a great soul. She loves Jesus. And loves many people. And serves them. She is a deeply thoughtful Christian. But, like many, she has wounds in her life. In her tender, caring heart.
We talked of many things. Of faith. Of family. Of life. Of church. She is making a move away from her fellowship of many years.
We did not weep together. But, on the way home, alone, we may both have wept. I surely felt that gathering loneliness. For we have shared precious experiences as fellow pilgrims on the great journey of life.
We don’t live nearby. She and her husband reside several towns away from Molly and me. We won’t bump into each other on the street, at the post office, in the store, not even at church.
There are a number of people I will not see in the natural course of things. They are all fellow pilgrims on the way.
There will be treasured moments of passing, out there on the trail. Words spoken, adding to the memories.
Perhaps life just is that way. Memories, of friends. That really only enrich our relationships. That hold us close, as comrades of the heart. We pick up where we left off. We lift the phone. We write a note. We remember – what my Molly calls, “all the dear faces.”
Maybe it makes us yearn for heaven, taking seriously Jesus’ promise. “I will come and get you, that you may be where I am.” For, with us, it is really Jesus, and His part in all our friendships, that gives meaning to that love we have for each other. He has shown us how to love, how to uphold each other, how to walk together – and BE THE CHURCH. BE HIS FAMILY. HIS FRIENDS.
What a company! No bonds broken there. For forgiveness and its reconciliation is an “ever factor.” A present, eternal reality. A miracle of Divine love.
So, we go on. Remembering. Cherishing. Affirming. Being friends in Christ. Being “We few. We band of brothers.” AND SISTERS. THE CHURCH. That makes friends. That binds us together – eternally.
So, we belong to each other, in that ever-strengthening “tie that binds our hearts in Christian love.”
Let that bond, brothers and sisters, lift us above the divisions of the world and even above those differences that can divide us only for a time. For “we are one in the Spirit, and one in the Lord.”
Bless you all – so dear.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES