Cynics, Celebrate! (Our reflections on the beautiful church.)

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

~Hebrews 10:24-25

On Wednesday, I wrote a bit of a self-indictment about presumptuous sins, the cynicism that is more than creeping. It’s easy to nitpick the Church. You and I both know that to be the truth.

I have been told that the antidote for cynicism lies in many positions of the heart–mercy, peace, gratitude, joy, patience. But maybe all of these positions can be summed up
into a more singular concept–grace.

Today I’d like to engage in a collective project, an exercise in grace giving. I’d also like to celebrate the church, the local one of which you are a part. So here is the collective question for today: what is the good you see in your local church? Would you share a short response in the comments below? It may go something like this:

This morning I shared a coffee shop table with John Ballentine. A friend  approached and shared a concern. John, without hesitation, started speaking to the air, to the Spirit who was all around. It was not uncomfortable; there were no closed eyes or raised hands. It was prayer in the moment. He learned this from the leaders of our local church. They have taught us how to be the body to each other, and I am grateful.

Your story will be different, but would you graciously (and lavishly) celebrate your local body? Perhaps you’d like to take it a step further and write your own blog post about the good in your local church. If you do, come back here and share the link with us. We’ll make sure to check it out.

And while you’re at it, check out Kimberlee Conway Ireton’s piece, The Broken Body. In it she celebrates her local church. It’s a beautiful reflection.

Are you ready to extend grace and celebrate the church? Who’s first?

Photograph by silent shot, used under Creative Commons license.

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11 Responses to Cynics, Celebrate! (Our reflections on the beautiful church.)

  1. Kiki Malone says:

    Our church is of the home-church flavor. At the moment, our meetings are gender specific and bi-monthly, so that the women meet twice a month and the men meet twice a month. We’ve never done this before, but it’s proving wondefully successful for this season. One nice detail about our current meetings is that when when the women meet together for Bible study the men gather for beers and banter. When the men meet to discuss our in-depth exploration of Ephesians, the women gather for whatever it is women do when they gather. There’s a good balance of study and leisure, study and leisure.

    Specifically (in response to your question, and without giving too many gory details) I’ve been encouraged lately by the way my community has taken care of one another. Just last week two emails circulated requesting prayer for financial strains on two different families. The response was both spiritual and monetary, and the responses were immediate. When I see this kind of selflessness – both in taking the time and in sharing resources – I know that something good is happening in my midst. The Lord provides for His people, and He usually does so through His people.

    Thanks for requesting stories. We need to do more blessing and less bickering. You’ve given us that platform today. Awesome.

  2. dukeslee says:

    I see my country church every morning out my bedroom window here on our farm, the steeple rising up over fields and fences. There are about 80 of us in all on a typical Sunday. We’re a quiet little family of believers. Well, I take that back. We’re not always quiet. We know how to party, and two Sundays ago, the men had a grill-off in the church yard. Good times. (Some people call us the “food church.”)

    Many of our members were baptized and confirmed there, and already have their “lot” reserved in the cemetery across the road. Lots of old-timers, but new people are always welcomed in.

    Here’s a snippet from a recent post, about food of course:

    “I find my way to the potluck table, and fill. There is more than enough, always more. The room hums with conversation, in this, a shared ritual passed down through generations. I hear someone ask who made the rice soup, and I know it was Joyce because I recognize her crockpot.

    I find my place between a family of six, speaking in Spanish, and a young mother, murmuring baby-talk while coaxing her child with a choo-chooing fork.

    At the table, I slow down. I eat attentively. And here, with fork in hand, love comes into focus.

    We have each invested something of ourselves to get here — the frosting on a cupcake, the carefully measured ingredient. Even this — the simple opening of a bag of Chex mix — is an offering at the table of grace.”

  3. oh, this is my heart, too, to lift up and celebrate the broken, beautiful Church.

    our church and diocese experienced a very painful schism shortly after we arrived. it’s been heartbreaking, but i see two praises. my husband is in a men’s small group that has met together faithfully and weekly, even though they no longer worship all together on sundays. they make each other angry and they love each other deeply, and it is grace.

    the second is that we have a new bishop-elect. he preached sunday with passion and humility about leading from pain and brokenness and God using even mess for his glory. i know that God is ushering in a time of healing among us, and i pray, through us.

  4. LjDowns says:

    This will not be poetic or overly deep. I love the commitment our church has to missions, both local and overseas. I love that they vary the preaching to appeal to both seekers and the seasoned. I love that the pastors communicate sincere love and grace. I love the music. I love that they do baptisms in the service and that prior to baptisms they interview the one being baptized and play the video prior to the baptism (brings the tears every time, particularly when it’s a child). I appreciate the mad skills of those who make custom videos EVERY WEEK to fit the message. I adore the music. Oh, I already said that.

  5. sleighs79 says:

    Two weeks ago, in our fairly pedestrian congregation, we met as usual, listened to announcements as usual, gave the offering as usual, and then we sang together until it was no longer usual, but God in the flesh, praying aloud, kneeling together at the cross, hugging one another in the seats, tears flowing, God moving, lives reborn, broken people meeting together without masks, without agendas, all awash in His grace. The planned sermon and remainder of the service went by the wayside, all of us priests together that day.

  6. S. Herron says:

    There was a time when I struggled with what the church is. It’s a bit strange because now that I am more orthodox and more liturgical the less I judge others who choose to do it, well, differently. When I was confused, I judged with haste and probably some resentment and definitely with jealousy. But now that I am solidly resolved to the first love of Christ himself, His Church, the less I feel the pull to tear what others are doing asunder. I feel more strongly than ever before that God does give us a scriptural framework for the church but the closer I believe we are to it the less my concern goes to the external and the more it centers on my own heart, family and church. May be gracious to us all. May our cynicism be crucified with the risen Christ.  

    I love our church. I meet with my pastor every week to drink coffee and remind each other of the gospel. We forget. You see that’s what I love the most about our church. We realize that we forget. We forget what Christ has done and we forget who we are. We aren’t good at upholding Christ and we are a selfish bunch. But in our worship we are reminded both in word and in sacrament of the love and beauty of our Lord Jesus Christ. This frees us to drink deeply of his love, take the focus off of ourselves and make sense of the grand meta-narrative. 

    From the Belgic Confession we corporately agree on the Holy Scriptures. From Genesis we hear of the providence of God and how Christ is behind every page of His plan, turned toward that end; that where one failed, another One did not. We are reminded of how gracious of a Father we have that He might allow us and be pleased by us meeting and worshipping him in such a way. What a blessing each and every Lord’s day to “take, eat, feed upon Christ, and remember.” That God would give us a place where we are reminded of His love for us is such a blessing. We are filled and as we preach the gospel, serving each other at home, our children, and our neighbors in different ways may Christ be lifted so that in our forgetting, we remember and in our remembering we are renewed.

  7. All I know is that our priest is the most Spirit-led man I’ve ever met. If he says, “I think you might consider taking up the church newsletter,” then by golly, you’d better consider it as a word from the Lord. He just seems to know.

  8. I love to worship with these friends of many years. I love the rich arrangements our amazing Worship Director puts together, using the talents of so many different people in our middlin’ size group – keyboards/guitar/bass/drums/cello/viola/violin/oboe – it’s different every week and sometimes just 2 people, 2 guitars. Rich mix of old and new music. AND cross-generational. That’s probably what I love the most. That and sharing in communion, especially by intinction, when we go forward and the line snakes out the back door, with the light streaming in behind and we’re singing softly or listening to the instrumentalists of the day. Somehow, with the light thru the stained glass, (new stained glass and so gorgeous), the small heads and the old heads and the teen heads and the married heads all bowed over, saying the same words, drinking the same cup – yeah, I love that a lot. I also love working at the safe-house for homeless families once a quarter, our mixed-age monthly small group, and closing my eyes to hear the Word read over me. NONE of which I would experience without this community of faith, this gathered group. I love when we help each other grieve or celebrate, provide compassion gifts to families in distress, use every bit of our beautiful plant, high in the hills away from ‘city life’ – opening our doors to the local firehouse, the sheriff’s crew, the local YMCA. We have a gym – one of the few in our city – and we love to host folks, charging just enough to cover utilities. And weddings become a means of gospel-sharing and family-building. Okay, I’ll stop now.

  9. Seth, Thanks for your link to my post, and your words about it. So grateful for the opportunity to write about my local community in that post.

  10. Pingback: The Saturdaily–The Death of Cynicism | Seth Haines

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