We, the Church!
Dana (yes, her real name) came out of the kitchen in her diner on Tuesday evening and announced that she would be closing the restaurant at 8:00 p.m. That in itself is not any different from any other night at the diner. But this time she was crying – tears running down her cheeks. Sadly, she announced that the state of West Virginia had just announced that all dine-in eateries were to close indefinitely. She isn’t set up for delivery or pick-up, for she owns a small local restaurant and she depends on loyal local traffic to keep her open.
Janet and I always love to eat there when we stay at the Greenbrier. In fact, we ate there twice on our most recent visit to the area. After finishing our meal, paying our bill and leaving a tip for our server, Janet and I found Dana and spoke to her about the future. She is worried – worried for her employees and how she will ever be able to re-open. She operates on a razor thin margin and she doubts that she will ever be able to serve her customers again. Janet and I said that we will remember her, and her staff, in our prayers. We also left a more tangible expression of our concern for her and were saddened as we left the diner.
This is just one of countless stories that give us an inside look at what small businesses are going through. We have all heard how larger companies are going to handle this shut-down, but we don’t hear about the small mom and pop operations as quickly. Nor do we hear about all the people who have lost their jobs and can’t afford to feed their families. The coronavirus doesn’t play favorites – we will all be affected.
To help in other ways, our church operates a food pantry and this week we served more than 600 families in need. Although visitors can no longer come in and help themselves, we offer curbside pickup and recently completed a large expansion of our center. It has been, and will undoubtedly be, a large blessing to many more folks as the pandemic spreads and additional legions of people lose their jobs.
One of the big issues facing us today is that people believe the church is a building – an institution. But the church is not a building – it is an assembly of believers who are the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. That means that whenever we encounter separation from God, pain, isolation, injustice, hatred or decay of our world, it is up to us to step in and represent the kingdom of God on earth. We are the church – not some building… and we serve a living God…
Whether we financially support those who suffer poverty, help to heal and assist the sick, or pray for those that we can’t help in any other way, it all goes with the territory that we have chosen to align ourselves with. By the way, there is no guarantee that we won’t suffer problems ourselves. But we can handle that – we are the church…
Our verse for tonight announces the beginning of Jesus’s church. Jesus had spoken to the disciples and asked them who people think He is? Peter responds and Jesus goes on to indicate that He will build His church on Peter’s proclamation.
Matthew tells us the story in Matthew 16:13-19, “When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
What made this particular assembly unique was the fact the Jesus referred to it as His church. In other words, it would be different from any other assembly – and that has been the case. My encouragement this evening is that the church of Jesus is still strong and flourishing. And every believer is an important member of it. My prayer is that we will all be the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth – representing His church in ways that make us all proud to serve our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…