This is the Church

“This is the church,
It has steeple.
Look inside,
And see all the people.”

This little poem with hand actions may be familiar if you attended church as a child, maybe you learned it in Sunday school, or this might be your first time hearing it. It is a simple way to explain what a church is. Today is Pentecost Sunday, often called the birthday of the church. A good time to answer the question, what is a church?

The Measure We Give

Sometimes I wish that Jesus wasn’t so clear in his teaching. Most of the time he uses parables and rich symbolic language, which can be confusing and frustrating to our modern ears, but in this case what I wouldn’t give for a nice parable about sheep or vineyards. Why? Well, what do I, what do we do with love your enemies? There is a cartoon which depicts this story, Jesus teaching the crowd to love their enemies. Some in the crowd exclaim “surely he doesn’t mean the Romans!” I think it captures the dilemma we experience when we think about this commandment. How do we talk about love and forgiveness for those who do and express terrible things? How do we love the Romans?

Building with Love

Imagine you are outdoors, perhaps on a well traversed trail through the woods, or on a river moving through the streaming waters. Surrounded by the beauty and wonder that is creation you come upon an open field, sunlight streams upon the grass that bends from the gentle breeze. As you feel the caress of the wind upon your face you see a tall tent with its entrance open wide and tall enough for anyone to enter.

Above the entrance you see a sign that says “the tent that keeps no record of wrongs, all welcome.” It is a tent that is almost magical, for anyone who enters it every wrong they have ever done, every regretted word spoken in anger, every failure, does not exist in that tent. It is a tent that keeps no record of wrong. It is a tent of perfect love.

A Little Joy

Joy. Can you recall time you felt joy? Did you feel it in every part of your body, did it make you want to dance, to shout with glee. Today is known in the Western Christian Church as Gaudete Sunday or rejoice Sunday. It is the day we joyfully anticipate the coming of Jesus into the world. Today we focus on rejoicing. 

I wonder what exactly is joy? Is it a feeling? A state of being? Is it different than happiness?