Last Sunday, we experienced a wonderful worship service at our church Faithbridge Presbyterian. Pastor Cheryl Taylor delivered a thought-provoking and uplifting sermon. The Praise Team led us in contemporary songs and a couple of hymns. Sometimes, it’s not always obvious when we, as Presbyterians, feel the Holy Spirit moving because we are pretty staid for the most part, but the enthusiasm with which we sang “Blessed Assurance” offered a good clue. After we finished singing, Pastor Cheryl suggested that we hold hands as we prayed. Pastor Cheryl came to our church in 2021, after we returned in person from the Covid shutdown. But even then, we didn’t return to all our traditions. I don’t know if Pastor Cheryl knew that reaching across the aisles and holding hands had been our custom before Covid, but the second she asked us to hold hands, the gaps between us closed. I was almost giddy to return to this tradition. I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude.
Holding hands with my church community symbolized the connection we share. We share strong and abiding relationships that we’ve built over the sixteen years since our family moved to Texas. We may not agree completely on every single specific question of faith or politics, but we share a bond based on God’s love. We’ve spent countless hours talking, laughing, learning, and serving together. We’ve experienced some difficult times together as well. We’ve cried through grief. We’ve disagreed. But we’ve forged ahead through the tough parts of the journey and continued to be faithful to God and one another. We are a family, plain and simple.
But I don’t know that I tell my church family how grateful I am for them on a regular basis. They do so much to make our church run smoothly. We are a relatively small congregation, so everyone has a function and role to play. Without everyone’s participation, we couldn’t worship well, educate our children, care for our members, or manage the church’s business. We also wouldn’t be able to serve others through our mission work. We like to say that we are small but mighty when it comes to helping people. We wouldn’t be a sanctuary for all who walk through our doors if we weren’t tied together by God’s love.
In a passage from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, he compares the church community to our physical bodies, in which each body part plays a designated role so that the body functions as a unit. “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. God has put the body together… so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:12, 24-27).
While these verses are familiar, when I read them this time, the phrase “its parts should have equal concern for each other” jumped out at me. This is not always easy to accomplish, but when we find that synergy in which our relationships are built on a foundation of God’s love, we can share that love among ourselves equally and then give that love to others. God’s love is not limited and ours doesn’t have to be either.
I don’t share our church’s story to boast, but to remind myself to be thankful and not take anyone for granted. To appreciate the community that God has built and encourage everyone to search for a community in which God’s love is at the core of the relationships. God welcomes us into relationship with him no matter who we are or what our individual story is. I pray we all find a faith family that will do the same. Thanks be to God.