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November 20 – Church Stories
A young woman comes to a church 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. After each request, a 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 reminds the young woman of her own family who are likely saying prayers for her in a similar church. A sense of peace begins to ease her 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 the young woman: this is what it means to be God’s church.
Jesus said “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them!” (Luke 6:32) In other words; the church should never be just a social club for members only. The church is you and I with God’s divine help learning to love those who love us and to especially love those who don’t.
Billy never thought much about God. He was a go-getter with a bright future. 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. Billy was feeling angry and guilty at the same time. Anger at the driver and guilt for all the times he chose work instead of being the parent he should have been.
In the waiting room, his wife was surrounded by several friends from her church. But Billy usually sat off to himself. At one point, they all stood to pray. A man walked over 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.
Churches may not offer sure-fire formulas for a problem-free life, but we can and do depend upon God to give comfort and hope to people like the young woman and Billy. When you need God, I pray you find God’s church, full of grace and compassion.
Prayer Challenge: How has God’s church impacted your life?