Hiding in Plain Sight
The first time I went to the Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, MI, I had no idea what I was looking at. I remember there were sculptures, lots of flowers, some trees… that was about it. At the time, I was a new parent and was so plugged into the needs of our young kids that I failed to notice what was right in front of my face: namely, the extraordinary beauty of both the natural and human cultivated kinds. My parental concerns blinded me to the nearly infinite variety of colors, shapes, buds, blooms, cacti, butterflies, banana trees, and Japanese pines. Not only did I miss the details, I also missed the macro — the subtle beauty of how the architects designed the gardens. Walking paths flowed seamlessly into one another. Flaura from one part of the world gracefully gave way to that of another continent. I didn’t see any of it. God’s grandeur was right there, hiding in plain sight.
It struck me years later that this experience was a sad metaphor for how my day-to-day concerns regularly blind me from the God-given beauty that should have the power to gladden and transfix. Alas.
I believe a similar blindness often afflicts us when it comes to the church. We all bring our day-to-day concerns and annoyances to worship. It’s easy to be put off when we don’t get our preferred parking spot or our regular seat or when the music isn’t particularly awesome. Pastors can certainly blather on and miss the point. The post-service coffee might not be the best brew we’ve had all week. Our kids might have gotten bored. There are so many details that could pull our vision away from the beauty that is there: the grandeur of the Church as the Bride of Christ. The Invisible Church. The Church as God sees her.
It’s easy to get bogged down in the temporary, human side of the church. But God sees better. He is able to look past these momentary imperfections and perceive what is lasting, redeemed, and eternal. These qualities are so because Jesus, the architect and head of the church, has made them so. He’s even quite a bit better than the clever folks who designed the Meijer Gardens!
Here’s what God’s Word says about how God sees the church:
You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him, the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him, you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. - Ephesians 2:19-22
Wouldn’t it be great if we could trust God’s perspective on the church more than our own? Wouldn’t it be amazing if we walked into worship feeling the solidity of the Cornerstone of Jesus under our feet and the stability of Christian Unity hemming us in? That’s what God sees. That’s what Jesus prayed for in the Garden of Gethsemane on his last night (John 17). That’s what we get to experience this coming weekend as we celebrate Worldwide Communion Sunday with brothers and sisters around the globe. I hope to see you -- really see you -- there.
Grace and Peace,
- Pastor Gregg