I remember the steady stream of people slowly making their way to the front of the church, hands cupped in front of them, waiting like children to have the bread placed in their palms. I remember watching as they kept coming, one after the other. Some, I knew their heartache, the deep pain they carried. Some, I knew their joy, the dreams and delight they rejoiced in. Some, I knew not at all. Each with their story, each with scars, they steadily streamed past me—and I was overwhelmed as I saw physically enacted before me the sufficiency of Christ, in the physical elements of bread and wine. There was always enough room at this Table. No matter how many crammed into the small church, or how many folding chairs needed to be added to the back rows—there was always enough. Always enough to walk forward and hear “the body of Christ given for you…the blood of Christ shed for you.” For me. For each of us. Always enough grace to go around to any who would receive it.
I remember sitting with quiet tears slipping down my face, my friend offering a hand squeeze of comfort and solidarity, as I heard time and time again the beautiful message of the Gospel. I longed to go back every week, to drink in as much of the thirst-quenching stream as I could, this continual reminder of the grace of God extended to me. The Gospel was for me—and it was for me in the midst of my deepest pain, my echoing questions, and the aching that would not subside in my heart. I brought my brokenness and continued to hear the message, “Yes, child, this is why I came.” I remember learning to (begin to) let go of the need to have it together, as I free fell into the Gospel of a Savior who was for me in the mess, because of the mess, redeeming the mess.
Although I have been a part of several good churches, and I am thankful for the ways each of them has shaped me, that precious little Anglican church will always hold a special place in my heart. It was there I saw clearly for the first time why the Gospel is everything. It’s all we have going for us.
Isn’t this the heart of the Church? It holds up the mirror of the Gospel and bids us look. In its reflection, we see how deeply entrenched sin is in our hearts and are driven to repentance. We also see the unending grace of God to forgive and restore us, and we are overcome by awe and the desire to worship through obedience.
It’s easy sometimes to think that we need to graduate on to bigger and better things in the Christian life. But the reality is that we need to swirl deeper and deeper into this one thing—the God who is for us in the crucified Christ. For it is here that we see both the depth of our sin and the depth of our value in God’s sight, removing the need for both guilt-tripping and self-aggrandizing. It is here we find a pure motivation for holy living and obedience—awe and thanksgiving in light of all that God has already done. It is not the job of the church to whip people into shape or to make them feel good about themselves. Rather it is to hold up this mirror, the Gospel, again and again, for this is where we are transformed and made anew.