A young woman named Sarah comes to a church service for the first time. No one knows who she is or why she’s there. She tentatively takes her place in a back pew. Is she looking for something to help her struggling faith? Maybe she needs answers to face turmoil in her life?
The pastor asks for prayer concerns from the congregation. Upon hearing each request a small candle is lit to symbolize God’s love and our continuing need for prayer. A young man asks the congregation to pray for him as he starts a new job. A woman names a friend who will undergo surgery the next day. An elderly woman catches Sarah’s attention when she speaks of a granddaughter in another city who is all alone coping with a recent marital separation.
Hearing the Grandmother’s words of love and concern reminds Sarah of her own family who are likely saying prayers for her in a similar church in another state. A wonderful sense of peace begins to ease Sarah’s fears and for the first time in years she offers a silent prayer of thanks to God for showing her this place where she could finally feel the love and grace of God’s people.
For Sarah: this is what it means to be God’s church.
Jesus once said to the haughty religious folks who criticized His acceptance of the rough-looking characters in his midst: “If you had one hundred sheep, and one of them strayed away and was lost in the wilderness, wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine others to go and search for the lost one until you found it? And then you would joyfully carry it home on your shoulders. When you arrived, you would call together your friends and neighbors to rejoice with you because your lost sheep was found. In the same way, heaven will be happier over one lost sinner who returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!” (Luke 15:4-7)
In other words; the church is never just a building. The church is you and I with God’s divine help looking for lost sheep and offering godly aid.
Billy never thought much about God, until now. He was a go-getter with a bright future in sales. Before he turned twenty, Billy was a top producer. At thirty he was manager of a territory covering three states. Now, Billy’s life was spinning out of control because his eight-year-old boy lay in intensive care fighting to stay alive after being struck by a drunk driver while riding his bike.
In the waiting room, his wife was surrounded by several friends from her church. But Billy never before wanted any part of that stuff and usually sat off to himself. At one point, they all stood to pray. A man walked over to Billy and motioned for him to join them. This time, without any hesitation, Billy stood up and sheepishly took hold of their outstretched hands and listened fervently to the heart-felt words asking for God’s healing mercy. During the prayer, he felt a surge of electricity surge through the room that he could only imagine was the Holy Presence of God.
When Billy needed God, he discovered the true meaning of church.
Jesus went on to say: “Or suppose a woman has ten valuable silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and look in every corner of the house and sweep every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors to rejoice with her because she has found her lost coin. In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.” (Luke 15:8-10)
We may not offer sure-fire formulas for a problem-free life but the church can and does provide the Holy Presence of God to in order to give comfort and hope to lost sheep like Sarah and lost coins like Billy.
I know, because I too was lost. I desperately needed and still need God’s holy presence. My passion as a pastor and writer is to help you discover for yourself the same healing comfort of God.
When you need us most, I pray you will reach out and find God’s church is there.