44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home] and ate their food with glad and generous[chearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
“When you are in church, and are going to partake of the divine mysteries of Christ, do not go out until you have attained complete peace. Stand in one place, and do not leave it until the dismissal. Think that you are standing in heaven, and that in the company of the holy angels you are meeting God and receiving Him in your heart.”
A Discourse on Abba Philimon
Philokalia Volume 2
What is the church? This is the greatest question for a body of faithful who come together every Sunday morning. The Youtube video below entitled “The Me Church” illustrates the great conundrum that we face
Is the church supposed to be all about me and my thoughts or is it a body of diverse people uniting to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Throughout the history of the church, we have seen splits and divides focusing on what church is and how it operates. In Acts, we read a utopian view of the church as a living, breathing example of Christ’s love in the world right after the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. This almost seems radical to us today. Abba Philimon, a third-century church father, reminds us that the spiritual church is a place for people to rest in God, or — put another way — move beyond themselves into the deeper mystery of God in the world.
After 10 years of ordained ministry, I have seen this play out in so many ways in so many people. For me, the church is a group of people who are committed to sharing the reconciling and love of God with the world. It’s that simple. However, I am not naïve about the struggles of our human condition on that simple task.
Perhaps the prayer we say on Good Friday will remind us and strengthen us to own our legacy as a people of God working toward the fulfillment of God’s kingdom here and now. Maybe, just maybe, we will let the institutional church grow out of that understanding.
Prayer for the Church
O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Prayer for Church from Good Friday Liturgy
Book of Common Prayer, Pg. 282