Perhaps the best way to begin this post on the church is with this very personal short note I received just a few days ago. It is from a grandmother who lost her precious granddaughter around the Christmas season last year. Kasey was only 11 years old.
(Shared with permission)
I cannot convey all the joy in my heart and soul
I FEEL as if a great weight has lifted
I have turned the wheel over to God and letting him drive awhile
We shall see where my path goes
But i know with you Michelle Amanda Austin Jake etc etc the entire grace place church
I can make it through anything this world throws at me
So bring it on World ...
GOD'S on my side and i feel stronger than ever
The grief of this precious family is shared community wide as Kasey was a wonderful ray of sunshine in an often too dark world. She had recently been coming to church with a friend who attended. She jumped right in and got involved. She joined as a key cast member in our Children’s Christmas play. Kasey accepted Jesus as her Lord and Leader at one of our gatherings as a church.
The last time I saw Kasey alive was at my middle daughter’s college graduation party. She gave me a hug when she came in and was her usual social butterfly self though out the party. At one point, I walked my granddaughter Allison (2yrs) outside to the nearby community park. Kasey and her friend Sam were already there. Kasey took over with Allison and helped her climb onto the slide.
I never dreamed that would be the last time I would see Kasey on earth. I would have held on tighter to that hug had I known, whispered in her ear to save me a place near her heavenly home, asked her to hold tightly to the Savior we both love who is the Head of this institution we call the Church. At her funeral, I talked about heaven. It is the eternal home our souls long for all our lives. The closest I get to feeling at home here on earth is when I gather with God’s people in a gathering we call “church”.
I love the church! In it God gave us a little heaven on earth. When we gather to worship Jesus, we are in the company of heaven. There is no separation from the angels of heaven, the saints who have gone before us, the Holy Spirit shreds the vale that separates us in life and we corporately lift our voices in unison to praise the one who conquered death!
The church embodies the hope of the world in Jesus Christ. If you think this world has problems now try to imagine what it would look like without the people of God present. No one to contend for Justice, stand up for the trodden down, give of their time, talent and treasure to those who cannot help themselves, share the burden of grief for those who are suffering in this life, encourage the discouraged, preach the good news of Jesus Christ, give an eternal perspective to those who see only this life.’
Where do people go when they lose hope in their future? They go to drugs, alcohol, sex, temporal escapes of all manner. They are overcome by depression and unable to find the energy needed to live life at its fullest. They come to believe that broken relationships are the only kind available. They rationalize that this is as good as life gets so suck it up and live it out. Real joy is replaced with incremental enjoyable moments.
Into the midst of this God planted His Church! More than a building on a piece of property the church is the people of God. They live differently in this dark world. They have a joy even in sadness that is inexplicable. They look at life differently. They see not only this life but in their eyes, you glimpse eternity. A loving community who owe their allegiance to not just a King but one who is King of Kings. A place where there are no strangers. A little heaven, right here on the earth that's the church.