This month we will conclude our Sunday teaching series ‘Believing & Belonging’ and move into a new season, Advent. The Autumn has felt like a season of rebuilding as we have come together more strongly as a church in this post-Covid era. I was delighted to see the response to Back to Church Sunday and to welcome many new faces to Sunday services and mid-week activities.
We have explored lots of themes, including why the church is the hope of the world and why it matters that we gather together. We’ve thought about our own denomination, the URC and its particular gifts to the church universal. We’ve considered what it means to be a truly welcoming church. We’ve asked what is the purpose of gathered worship and how we can live whole lives of worship outside of the church building.
On a couple of occasions we’ve sung a hymn which includes these words…
Isn’t it good to be with friends,
isn’t it good to speak their names, and be a friend of Jesus.
Isn’t it good to all belong,
different voices in one song, singing our love for Jesus.
When everyone has a psalm, a prayer
And everyone comes to give, to share
God’s building a house, God’s building a home,
Come fill it with glory
You’re building us strong, You’re making us one,
To shine out Your glory
The words are based on scripture passages such as ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God’ (Colossians 3:16) and ‘Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, andlike living stones, let yourselves be builtinto a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 2:4-5) It’s a reminder that the cornerstone of our church is Jesus himself.
A building can only stand the test of time if it is built on strong foundations. If the basic structure of the building is flimsy or the key lode-bearing points are shoddy, then the next storm will knock it flat.
That’s why the church is unlike any social club or institution – it does not gather around a set of shared interests or ideology. It gathers around a person – Jesus Christ. It is only when we all build our common life on his love, his example and his teaching that we can be confident that our ‘house’ will stand the test of time. And when we do, it can become a shelter for many others, however much or little faith they have. Because the house of Christ is one that welcomes you, whoever you are and wherever you are on life’s journey.