11/17/2019: The True Church

11/17/2019: The True Church

Isaiah 65:17-25
I Corinthians 12:12-27
John 15:1-17
A Sermon by Reverend Gretchen Jones Switzer

There are whole books of the old testament devoted to the details of the temple in Jerusalem as it was built. We have hundreds of exact measurements, and intricate decorative details, meant to reflect the Glory of God. From a theological standpoint, the temple was constructed as a “Dwelling place for God.” The entire focus of the temple project was on the building and how beautiful and regal it must be in order to serve as God’s home forever.

No wonder the Jews got upset when Jesus began speaking about the destruction of the temple. How dare he even entertain the idea that God’s “house” might not stand forever. But you see, Jesus Christ understood that there is no structure that can contain God. God is too vast, too expansive to be ‘boxed’ into a building no mater how grand or beautiful. God is spirit, God will not be limited by constructed space. Besides which, God doesn’t live in a building, God lives in us! Jesus didn’t sacrifice himself for a building, Jesus didn’t die for an “organization.” Jesus lived and died FOR US. For we who believe, for we who struggle to have faith, for we who cling together as we try to figure this all out.

I have been serving congregations for 35 years and many times I have encountered groups of church members who tend to think more about the constructed building as the “real” church and the people who fill the building as “just members.” But truly, the “Church,” the body of Christ, is the PEOPLE who gather to worship and serve God. Not the concrete and metal used to construct a physical “temple,” but the souls and the hearts of God’s people.

The folks who built the temple in Jerusalem were focusing completely on the building, the “structure” of the congregation, instead of focusing on what God was asking them to focus on: EACH OTHER! On the care and encouragement of our sisters and brothers in faith who share in the REAL CHURCH, THE TRUE CHURCH, which is not the building or the structure or even “the new by-laws,” but this gathering of faithful souls, friends, and acquaintances whose presence in our lives enriches us and deepens our faith.

Now that is not to say that the building and how we organize ourselves is not important; it certainly is! However, what matters more is the nature, strength and love of our relationships here, and how those relationships inform our faith and our compassion here and out in the world around us. The most important lesson, I think, is that we, who are the church, cannot hold our own personal interests or ego as more important than the good of the whole. Because the good of all in Christ is what God calls us to pay attention to.

Herman Edwards, is described as, the colorful and witty coach who was with the Kansas City Chiefs. When I came to his thoughts on teamwork he said, “The players that play on this football team will play for the name on the side of the helmet and not the name on the back of the jersey.”

This is precisely how you and I, the Church, must think. We play and work for the honor of God, and the good of one another. That’s who we are! That’s what we’re here for-the good of one another, putting the well-being and care of others above ourselves.

In his book The Pursuit of God, author A. W. Tozer wrote the following:
“Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So, one hundred worshippers (meeting) together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become “unity” conscious and turn their eyes away rom God to strive for closer fellowship.”

Christ is our center. Christ is where our focus must be, not on ourselves or our own egos. In the world today, it seems like most people are more focused on themselves and their own needs than anything or anybody else. The result is a society filled with resentment, selfishness and unkindness such as that which fills the current election process every moment of every day. This is not okay, and it is especially not okay within the true church, where we are called by Christ to treat our “teammates” with respect and kindness and compassion NO MATTER WHAT! Amen.