Her name is ecclesia, meaning 'the assembly'
Bows to the Trinity, no other divinity
A body: family and community--she's all one
But on earth you see her in congregational small ones
A microcosm or a small scale example
But it is the church even though it's just a sample
Invisible spiritual; Physical visible
Not a brick temple; never that simple
This a not a building; She is not bricks
She's a world changer but ain't about getting rich
Perpetrating fakes cause a lot of folks to hate
Plus her hands get dirty and her feet get scraped
And sometimes her body parts start acting out of place
Legs trying to be arms; arms thinking they're the face
But she'll never be replaced with a one man band
Or a small taliban with nobody in command
-Lecrae, The Bride
I love the Church and I love churches. I mean this in almost every possible way. I love going to church. I love churchy church. I love hearing preachers and I love preaching. I love singing hymns. I love the sacraments. I love the sanctuary. I love the chancel. I love the altar. I love the pulpit. And, yes, I know that all these things aren't really "the church"--that the church is the people, the assembly. And I love them even more.
I was to three churches today. Actually, my whole family was. I started the day at my home church, Judson Baptist, where I am the pastor. At noon, I went up to First Presbyterian Church, where I preached a noon community service as part of our Holy Week series. Afterward, we shared a lunch of soup and bread. I worked on my Easter sermon the rest of the afternoon before heading to St. Paul's Episcopal (a beautiful church across from the Capitol). There we (along with the Episcopal church and Central United Methodist) shared an incredibly meaningful joint service, which consisted of a fellowship dinner, the Lord's Supper, a foot washing service, and the ceremonial stripping of the altar. There was a great emphasis on how Christ's church spans denomination and tradition. We got to meet some new friends and reconnect with old ones. It was an incredible day.
I've never understood Christians who don't love church. I've been even more confused by professing Christians who don't love the Church (and, in fact, have nothing but complaints about her). This Lent, I've realized that I've let my love for her become somewhat jaded. Sometimes it seems I'm more likely to point out any error that I perceive in an assembly of believers than to thank God for their strengths and pray for them. I need to re-discover that historic Baptist tension of debating our differences while embracing each other on account of our common Lord and faith...the tension present in that wonderful saying, "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity."
There is much within these other three churches with which I take exception. But there is more that we can celebrate, affirm, lament, and pray through together. And when we gather together to do just that, our shared essentials massively overshadow our (significant) differences. And what better day to come together like this than Holy Thursday, when we remember our Lord's High Priestly prayer, "I do not ask for these [the disciples] only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me." (John 17:20-21, ESV)