The night has come after a full Spring day, full in the since it was fully Spring. Warmer than winter, birds and animals moving around, the smell of cedar and pine, those wonderful scents of the forest fill the air. The pine was surprising, until I realized the amount of saplings still trying to make their way in this unwelcoming world.
Cedars are bold green, oaks are letting loose their leaves, forest wildflowers in all the colors fill the open spaces with accents of red, and yellow, and purple and blue.
And yes, I did go to church this morning, the first morning in a very long while. Over six months at least, and likely much more, I cannot remember. Even longer back into history was the last time I went to a church completely blind, having heard nothing, known no one. I was pleasantly surprised. The service was not spectacular, that is not my most important concern. I’ve been to the best in the nation, and so my expectations are not for a good show, but for a welcoming spirit. It was all that, and it felt nice to sit in the pews once more. More than that I don’t know. I don’t know why this morning of all the mornings in a very long while I woke up feeling like it was necessary to go, like it was my usual habit, rather than a long ignored task.
The church was refreshing, full of nice people, friendly hands. The pastor was not an exciting preacher, but he preached the Scriptures. When he said he was teaching from 1 John, he taught from 1 John. Very refreshing. I am not committing, nor am I going to intentionally refrain. There’s another church up here I want to try, and then… we’ll see.
On my way over this morning, a thought came to mind, a thought which made things a little more clear. Not profound or new, just a thought which felt right at the moment. So much of the Christian life as it is lived is directed towards the Church. At Church we meet Christ, to save friends we are asked to bring them to Church. Our whole basis of spiritual life is filtered through this lense. This is an old concept to be sure. The bishops were, are, said to represent Christ, to constitute the Church, thus only by communion with the bishops do we find Church, and thus find Christ.
The thought which came reminded me that this is turned around. First and foremost there is only Christ. Christ is the Church, the Church is his body. Only by seeking Christ first, can we even begin to think about Church. Church is the gathering of those who happen to fall together on the same path. We seek Christ, and the Church follows along. If we seek Church first, we most likely will miss aspects of both. Not completely, to be sure, but that’s the trap. We taste the Gospel enough to be content. First Christ, then Church. That’s the order. If I seek Christ with all my being, with all my soul, forsaking all else, I will find myself surrounded by like minded people. I will be led aright and respond aright, so my instincts will direct me as the body itself acts without thinking.
That was why Antony went into the wilderness. Christ alone is our goal. The other things are meant to aid us towards him, to be tools along the journey. We are called to travel with others, to encourage others along, but we are never to lose sight of our goal. It creates confusion and misery when we do.
When we lose sight, the inconsequentials become our concerns, the periphery becomes our emphasis, to the point where we become lost and blind. God calls, but does not demand. When we commit to Churches first, we can become lost with an entire group, blind in our contented companionship. That is not our call.
So, I went to Church today, because it felt right and good, coming from within my soul as a positive venture, rather than as an obligation. We do not work for our salvation, and I am saved by Christ. He calls me to him, and calls me to his service. I do what is asked for at the moment, and consider all through the lense of Christ. That at least is my goal, for there peace in all things is found.
There are mysteries in all of this, mysteries I’m slowly learning to discern. This understanding is very welcome.
Now a small bird is twittering outside, its quiet noise raucous in the calm.
So ends the day.