This coming Sunday our Gathering moves to our NEW summer space, at the Rochester Ice Arena (minus the ice), at 63 Lowell St., here in Rochester.
For all the adventures, misadventures, and challenges that come with being a church with a "mobile" worship space, there is one significant respect with which this reality has been, and remains, a gift to us: we have had very little opportunity to become distracted from the fact that the church of Jesus Christ is not a building, a program, or an event, but a PEOPLE. By the grace and Spirit of God, we are the church, you and I. And as such, wherever we commit to gather together in the name of Jesus; to experience and celebrate the bond of His Spirit, seek His face and worship His name, that place becomes a sanctuary.
On the face of the earth, there is no place that does not possess the potential of becoming holy ground; where the Spirit of the Lord is, and where His people call upon His name, God draws near. Or perhaps more accurately - as God is never actually distant from us - WE draw near; our awareness of His presence sharpened in worship. This is nothing short of a miracle.
Yet, I am afraid, the miracle of Christian worship and fellowship is one which we are easily tempted to view casually or with presumption; symptoms of the contempt that comes with our easy, western freedoms and cultural familiarity. It is just so easy for us to find ourselves in church on any given Sunday, we find it equally easy to decide that we prefer NOT to find ourselves there. After all, there's always another Sunday. Always another opportunity to partake of the easy miracle of shared grace. In our privilege, it is all too easy for us to despise the gift.
In his classic work, "Life Together", Dietrich Bonhoeffer reflects upon the gift of gathered, shared, Christian worship:
"It is by God's grace that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly around God's Word and sacrament in this world. Not all Christians partake in this grace. The imprisoned, the sick, the lonely who live in the diaspora... They know that the visible community is grace...
"What inexhaustible riches must invariably open up for those who by God's will are privileged to live in daily community life with other Christians! Of course, what is an inexpressible blessing from God for the lonely individual is easily disregarded and trampled underfoot by those who receive the gift every day. It is easily forgotten that the community of Christians is a gift of grace from the kingdom of God, a gift that can be taken from us any day... (Therefore, let us) praise God's grace from the bottom of (our) hearts."
Amen. May we be a people who are drawn together in gratitude, wonder, and expectation at the miracle of grace! Day by day, week by week, the blessing of God sustains and invites us: draw deeper, do not despise the gift, embrace the miracle of our Lord's victorious, gracious nearness, in the fellowship of his people. He is risen! There has never since been such a thing as an ordinary Sunday.