“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25 NLT)
There’s a lot to be said about tradition, ceremony, and formality. A lot of good things. These things bind generation to generation, inspire awe and wonder in us for our Creator and His Love, and even keep us from drifting down paths of error, mistake, even heresy. But I believe it’s the gathering of the Church itself that fosters these things best, and I’m not talking about a building. In this entry, I’ll use Church in its most ancient sense of “the called out people of God.”
By gathering, we bring young and old together, and every age in between. The old can share their wisdom, pass down tried and true tradition, and simply care for the Church like shepherds care for their flock. Incidentally, the term pastor is a Latin-derived word meaning simply shepherd. It’s a biblical image of Christ himself, too:
“[Jesus] himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we may cease from sinning and live for righteousness. By his wounds you were healed. For you were going astray like sheep but now you have turned back to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:24-25 NET)
As for the young, they can learn from the old but they can also share innovations. They can help test our held-dear ideas to prevent idolatry and error from forming. They can reintroduce compassion when our hearts have hardened, especially in the face of this selfishly ambitious world. Young people, who have fresh eyes, can indeed lead the old.
“Let no one look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in your speech, conduct, love, faithfulness, and purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12 NET)
The Body of Christ’s members, no matter the age, must realize our interdependence.
There is so much beautiful architecture in Church buildings around the world, from lofty Cathedrals to simple country chapels. Across millennia, styles have evolved to suit culture, time, and function. But remember, the Church is not a building: there is no “House of God” like in Israelite times with the Temple. But there is one in the sense of a Household of God, and that is us, the Church, the called out people of God.
So many of us can inspire as much awe in God’s love as Notre Dame can. From those who’ve sacrificed lives protecting people to those who’ve sacrificed the same to defend the Word of God. From the humblest janitor in a hospital ward to the single parent raising three kids on their own. From the missionary braving the oppressive government to feed the needy all the way to the lone first world politician working for justice for the poor. The Church has plenty of awesome members, since we ourselves are the Temple of God:
“And what mutual agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, just as God said, “ I will live in them and will walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”” (2 Corinthians 6:16 NET)
Protecting from Heresy
If we isolate ourselves, our ideas grow to fill our whole field of vision, whether or not the ideas are sound. And when these ideas are not tested but instead shielded by an echo chamber, our intellect atrophies as our heads get bigger. We become full of ourselves, selfish in our security that we are the ones that are right. This leads to division in the Church, since communication has been severed along with communion.
“For in the first place, when you come together as a church I hear there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. For there must in fact be divisions among you, so that those of you who are approved may be evident.” (1 Corinthians 11:18-19 NET)
So while divisions must happen, the resulting isolation lets false ideas flourish without the benefit of solid discussion, correction, and even debate. When we meet as a Church, though, communication within the Body is possible, and we can root out falsehoods while cultivating the truth.
“The way of a fool is right in his own opinion, but the one who listens to advice is wise.” (Proverbs 12:15 NET)
Encouraging One Another
Here is the great pleasure of meeting with one another: we get to see each other! Can we meet with the Church to make friends? Why not? We call ourselves brothers and sisters in Christ, so why can’t we also be friends. Jesus himself called us that:
“I no longer call you slaves, because the slave does not understand what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, because I have revealed to you everything I heard from my Father.” (John 15:15 NET)
It’s good then for us to like each other in addition to loving each other. Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually liked the Church? How much more effective and natural it is to encourage a friend than a rando you see every so often. So why make it harder by putting distance between the parts of the Body of Christ?
Really, why keep a distance? Instead meet together and encourage one another, especially since the joyous occasion of Christ’s return is nearer to us each day. But someone already wrote that, didn’t they?