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The Gathering

I remember having a talk with a good friend recently. He said to me, “I am not a Catholic, so I don’t have to feel guilty about missing church.”

I’m not a Catholic either, but I think there’s something pervasive going on in much of the Church that leads to ideas like this. His ideas aren’t that different from many of ours.

Think about how you view your local church. If you’re like many, you think of the church as a group of individuals that have an invisible relationship with God, who choose to get together to help each other grow. The church exists to serve the individual and to help her grow into everything God has for her to be.

This isn’t entirely your fault. Your church quite possibly views itself this way. Every Sunday, you could be hearing the pastor talk about helping you get to the next level. You’re being exhorted to join a small group to help you make progress in your personal relationship with Jesus. You’re being told that you can’t get to the next level unless people really know you. The whole time, the emphasis is placed on you as an individual and your individual growth.

I believe the church is something different entirely. I believe the gathering of the church has a much more fundamental purpose than a group of individuals growing closer to God.

The Church is the body of Christ. You’ve heard that. Have you thought of what that means? When the church gathers, it is the literal presence of Jesus on earth. Paul says that the church is the body and that, you, individually are members of it (1 Cor 12:27). What he’s saying is that your real identity in the church is that you are part of a whole.

Take a second to get your mind around that. Your identity when part of the church gathered is centered around how you are part of a larger whole. If you and I really believed this, it would change everything.

When the church is gathered for worship, God does a miracle. By the power of the Holy Spirit, he unites with his people in such a dramatic way that they become his very body. Together, they ascend to heaven (or, perhaps it’s more like heaven coming to earth) and commune with God. By the gift of the indwelling Spirit, the Church gathered is the bodily presence of Christ on earth.

Maybe you don’t have to feel guilty for missing church. Maybe your tradition doesn’t call it a sin. But why would you want to? The Church is the presence of Christ on earth.

You probably don’t wanna miss church this Sunday. God’s going to do a miracle there…

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One Response

  1. If you’re interested in this topic, I was really influenced by the first chapter of “The Eucharist,” by Alexander Schmeman.

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