by Kathy Platzer
Church can be hard at times for one reason or another…however, Church is a body of believers bound as brothers and sisters by an eternal love. I am thinking of how that sentence relates to my experience as a relatively new member of St. James. Two years ago November, I joined this church and became one of your fellow congregants.
For a couple of months before that, I had been searching for a new place to worship. It had been a struggle, leaving my church. I had grown up in that faith, went to school in it, married in it, my babies had been baptized in it, and I buried my husband in it. And it was home to me.
The search for a new place to worship consumed me for a while. Finally I picked up the phone one day and just called one of the churches whose websites I had been looking at. I knew I needed organized religion, and a religion that was structured, like the one I left. I left a message on the machine. I have no idea in this world what I said on that message, but within 5 minutes the phone rang, and a very kind pastor spoke with me, and we made an appointment to meet.
I had lots of questions, and worries, and I was also actually going through like the stages of grief. Sadness, loss, a sort of fright, anger, all those stages. But this kind pastor helped me through all that. We talked and talked, at different meetings, and it just helped me through this new and scary journey.
One of the things that I didn’t talk about, but the worry was there, was … would HE be there for me? Like HE had always been there for me? Would I find Him in this new church?
And I know what you are thinking, a lot of you. Why WOULDN’T He be there for me in this church? Well, it’s hard to change stuff when you are older. I really, really dislike change. And as I grow older, I like change even less. I don’t like chaos. And changing your whole faith when you are no longer a young person, when your time is running out, is a pretty frightening concept.
But I started noticing things. Kindness. Smiles. Welcoming remarks. Not one question as to why I was here, just acceptance. I guess I thought I might be a “newly adopted outsider,” but that didn’t happen. I was included, I was cared about, and I felt love.
And then I realized. Of COURSE He is here for me. Because He is in you, each one of you. He is in ME, and He is in YOU. And He is here for all of us.
I thought of the lady who, when I was here for a service before I joined, was sitting in front of me, right over there. At the peace greeting, she turned around, smiled, and said, are you visiting? And I said, I think I am going to join your church. And she said, Wonderful! If you need a sponsor, I would be happy to be your sponsor. That was special. That was love. That was Jesus right here in this church.
There are so many instances of God’s eternal love here in this congregation of brothers and sisters.
The young mother who is here at worship with her little boy and her little girl, and she holds them, or whispers to them, and you can just see the love. The greeters each Sunday, a special message for everybody. The young pastor, who openly shares, in some of his sermons, some of his story, and his happiness now… and we all hold those sharings closely and gently because we know he cares enough about us to share. And the senior pastor, who always has a smile, always has an open door, has boundless energy and cares about each person in this church. And when he sits on the floor with the children before his sermon and talks with them, the innocence of those little ones is just so uplifting. The choir. My goodness, that choir, and the amazing choir director. They all love what they are doing, and what a gift of love to the rest of us. The fellowship in the different Sunday school groups, and in the bible studies. The staff in the office. A new member has so many questions. And always, they are helpful and friendly. Always.
So many smiles from so many people. So many kindnesses.
Yes, Jesus is here for me. Because THIS church IS a body of believers bound as sisters and brothers by an eternal love.
And it has become home to me.
I will close with this excerpt from Matthew 25: Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
Thank you. Every single one of you. Amen.