Alphonse Mucha's work here reminds me of Redeemed Humanity, the Bride of God's Only Son
Sometimes going to church doesn’t seem worth it. For heaven’s sake, wouldn’t it be better to just have breakfast with some family or friends, and forego irritating people, scheduling problems, overblown or petty dramas de jour, personality conflicts, politics, dodgy doctrinal positioning, and the rest of machine the local church can be? Is the Cracker Barrel growing a bit more more alluring each Sunday morning?
Seems like a no brainer, right?
If this is kind of thing is happening for you, in your local church, maybe church shopping is around the bend? Well, wait just a minute. Here are 5 Mistakes you can make (or have made) regarding your local church.
1. Making theological judgements for what are personal preferences.
2. Mistaking the “local church” for The Bride of Christ.
3. Misunderstanding the idea of “community.”
4. Implementing a consumer approach with the spiritual and transcendent.
5. Overlooking what is happening in the sacraments.
Being from a more independent faith tradition, I grew up with the sense that church, in the local setting, was mainly about worship and fellowship. Well, it is, but not in the small sense I understood it to be. Now a bigger view of Church guides my life, and my relationship with my God and Savior.
Simply put: Church is hardly about “the local church” or about any human individual.
Jesus saved humankind through his Bride the Church. That means our preferences have very little to do with what God is doing, and the workings of Church.
The Church is something universal, invisible AND visible, international, and local. It is bound by culture and history, and yet handily transcends them both. It may exist in a location temporarily, but exists eternally in every location. Yes, it’s bigger, in every way than you think, or have the ability to imagine.
We apprend it in such tiny ways at times…
Perhaps, we get caught up or annoyed by such things a personalities, worship styles, programs, or issues related to our doctrinal formulations, opinion, or personal preference.
We may go “church shopping” and miss the point completely.
How correct to say, “Church is not about me.”
It’s about WE.
In the sacraments, the community of God (Trinity) intertwines with the community of man (humanity). We receive divine grace. God is with us. God is with his Bride, the Church. Locally the church celebrates what the collection of Christians, past, present, and future is enacting, together.
Each Sunday, worldwide, Christ’s Bride gathers, and meets together. The church is with “him”, as it has done from the beginning.
Even as the earth spins, the variances in time zones cause prayer without ceasing, and the fellowship and communion of the saints occur, globally.
And with Christ, Father, and Spirit, we celebrate the reality of koinwnia (koinonia) with the Divine. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “the Eucharist is the sacrament of the unity of the Church, which results from the fact that many are one in Christ.” (Eucharist means thanksgiving.) Koinwnia is what Christ exercised divinely with humanity, by grace, through his work in his ministry, on the cross, and in his resurrection. It is how we commune with each other, and worship God in Spirit and Truth.
Through a local church body, we live out, and enact the Gospel and participate the actual in-breaking of the Kingdom of God here on earth. The local church is people, and people are flawed. What God has done, is doing, and will continue to do, is not.
This whole concept is all summed up nicely in the Apostles Creed, in which followers of Christ unite in spirit and truth. Many of us may not know the creeds, or declare them together with other Christians. But, this particular creed, well-established in the 300s A.D. (C.E.), and is the/a manifesto (see ref. link) of the Bride. It is a speak-act and agreement of followers of the divine Father, Son, and Spirit, for a way of living and being; and understanding the world.
To take this creed fully to heart will expand your idea of church, unify you with Christians of the last 2,000+ years, and may even help you forebear with the frailties of local church you attend, here and now.
From the Book of Common Prayer -
I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth:
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, dead, and buried:
He descended into hell;
The third day he rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost;
The holy Catholick Church;
The Communion of Saints;
The Forgiveness of sins;
The Resurrection of the body,
And the Life everlasting.
Your comments are welcome.