Being the Church …. what does that mean? People throughout the world when asked this question would no doubt have some similar responses, but more than likely we would hear many different things. I say this because when people talk about what the church is they use so many words that the meaning at times gets lost. The Bible describes the church, which is the body of believers in Jesus Christ, as the bride of Christ. What a beautiful description that is!
Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, says it like this, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” The church, then, as it is beautifully described as the ‘bride of Christ’ should be that same picture of beauty to the world – but not by words. How many times have we all been confronted with people who talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk?
Well, this summer, I have been a witness to “the church being the church.” My wife was transported to the hospital early in the morning on July 5th. She had to have emergency abdominal surgery, but things didn’t go as the surgeon had hoped. On Wednesday, September 7th, after two more surgeries and time spent in the hospital’s watchful care doing rehab, I finally was able to bring her home. During this time, the church was there for us in a big way. The first thing we needed was prayer, and the church – my own churches in Botkins and Anna as well as the church at large – exploded with prayer. When she was finally able to understand where she was and all that had happened, tears came as she saw the countless number of people through Facebook who had been praying for her as well as the too numerous to count cards that have come. Prayers from so many have sustained us through this time. We will never be able to share with all who have shared with us, how much we have needed and appreciated you.
As a pastor, unable to be in his church, I had felt like I had been letting folks down even though I couldn’t leave my wife’s side. Each time I would express this to my churches, they simply said, “We’ve got your back.”
Not only did the church continue as lay people filled the pulpit on Sunday morning, but they continued to be the church to the community. They embarked upon our “Love 1 More” campaign that has been detailed in the pages of this newspaper. It was a four-day campaign to assist a person in need by doing some major and much-needed repairs to her house because at 94 years of age, this wasn’t something she could attend to. I had planned to be there all four days, but those four days I spent in the hospital being totally overwhelmed by and so very proud of the people of my churches as they proceeded in the hottest weather of the summer to be the church!
It seems that we learn every day of more people and more churches – widespread – who have been praying for us, not to mention the folks who day after day came to our house to water the beautiful flowers that my wife so lovingly plants in pots adorning the front and back of our house; and the folks that have been bringing meals to us. If any reading this article have been through a similar circumstance, then you have experienced what Janice and I have. As we experience this kind of outpouring of love, let us be reminded that as others have been there for us, we need to be there for others. We need to do what Jesus did for us – put others needs ahead of our own. Jesus asks so little of us compared to all He did for us. Let us remember His sacrifice and truly seek to BE the Church!
The writer is the pastor of the Anna and Botkins United Methodist churches.