In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22)
This past Sunday we received a number of new members into the fellowship of Grace Church. This is always an exciting time as it affirms to those of us who have been a part of the church for some time that others find something attractive and desirable about our fellowship and want to identity with us. We hope and can only assume that those who are joining feel that same level of joy, and anticipate becoming an ever-increasing part of the life of this congregation.
I remember thinking the night before Charleen and I got married thirty-seven years ago, “What a momentous decision this is!” Charleen and I were both committed to the finality of the step we were taking. But the question in my mind, and I suspect in hers too, was what would it be like when we woke up that first morning, or a week later, or a year later. Would we find ourselves asking ourselves privately, “Have I made a big mistake? Is this what I had expected and hoped for? Can I bear to remain in this relationship for the rest of my life? ” I have never found myself regretting my decision, even for a moment. And thankfully, Charleen indicates the same sentiment. God has blessed us as a couple in ways beyond what I would have ever anticipated.
Mind you, neither one of is perfect. There will always be mannerisms and personality things in each other that will stretch us. “You are supposed to eat your soup, not inhale it,” or “you wouldn’t always get the hiccups if you ate a little slower.” (That’s what Charleen says to me.) You know what I mean, and you can fill in the blanks with idiosyncrasies and pet peeves in your own marriages. What I do know is that neither one of us is the same person we were when we first said, “I do”. We’ve both changed with the years.
But why am I saying all this? It’s because joining a church is like getting married. Well, it’s supposed to be. I guarantee you that there will be things within the fellowship of the church that each of you will find irksome. “Why does Pastor Tom preach so long? (or not long enough?)” “Why won’t people clean up the kitchen after they make a mess?” “Doesn’t anyone notice that I do all the work around here?” “Why doesn’t anyone care that I’m hurting so bad? Doesn’t anyone notice?”
Paul, in Ephesians 5 reminds us that the church is married to Christ; he is the husband, the church is the bride. But there is a sense in which, as members of a Christian community (the local church), we are married to one another. That means “for better or for worse”. And there will always be “better” and “worse” in each of us. This is what makes it hard for us, because we don’t like the “worse” part.
But, in fact, God is changing us in our relationship with each other. God has in mind the big picture. He takes us as, Peter reminds us in his first Epistle, and fits us as living stones into a “spiritual house”, that we might be God’s “dwelling place,” as Paul reminds us in Ephesians. Yes, even our quirks and warts and idiosyncrasies have a role to play in God’s economy. He knows how we need to fit together. And he intends that Grace Church be a beautiful house fit for his habitation. What a beautiful thought!
New members, welcome to Grace Church. We are so glad you want to be a part of us.
Pastor Tom Bridgman