Periphery

Do you belong to a church?

Do you love your church?

This pandemic has wreaked havoc with church-goers and their pastors. When we all built our churches, we had no thought that keeping people six feet apart would ever be necessary. We squeezed out every square inch of space and allocated it for classrooms, adequate fellowship halls, and as many pews as we could fit into a sanctuary. Even our hallways are the minimum width required for the amount of people we expect in the building.

Loving your church may be a bit challenging right now. You may be weary of watching your pastor sitting at his/her dining room table, talking into an iPhone. You may be frustrated when the sound is bad and the feed freezes. You probably miss the people who normally sit around you every Sunday. (Come on, now! We know that you sit in the same place every week and have gotten to know them…hahaha!)

We get it. We miss “us,” too. Until our ecclesiastical leaders, our government leaders, doctors, scientists, and our pastoral teams feel comfortable about your safety, we will likely be “open, but un-gathered” a little while longer. Be kind to your church leadership. They are likely losing more sleep over this than you are.

Paul loved his churches. He planted them all over the known world, and kept in touch with them by letter. In his letter to his people in Ephesus, he tells them how thankful he is for their witness and their outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus.

Ephesians 1 The Message

15-19 That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks.

Paul’s love for them turned into a constant prayer that God would help them discern and be smart in their pursuit of Christ, and help them manage the wonderful life to which God has called them. His churches were engaged in the “utter extravagance” of God’s work, and he prayed for their energy and strength:

But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!

Paul was very clear that while he had planted these churches, Christ was the head. Christ has the final word on everything, and rules the church:

20-23 All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything.

At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.

Did you catch that part about the church not being peripheral to the world? “The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world. The world is peripheral to the church.”

So what the world is doing doesn’t influence the church, nor should it. The church is Christ’s body, and it influences the world.

So as we wait to re-gather in our sanctuaries, remember this scripture. Let us take on Paul’s teaching and PRAY FOR (and not prey on) our church leaders.

Pray with thanksgiving for their outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus.

Pray that God would make them intelligent and discerning.

Pray that God would keep their eyes focused and clear.

Pray for endless energy and boundless strength.

Pray that they would experience the presence of Christ, who rules the church.

Are you praying for your Pastor? We sure could use it.

Oregon Inlet Wreck by Kami Trusz

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