I was having a conversation with a clergy colleague the other day concerning the sacrament of Holy Communion. We were talking about how it should be viewed, and how it should be offered to all as a means of grace. This got me thinking about how we in the church view our stewardship of God’s resources.
So often we refer to the church as “ours.” Preston Hollow Church is MY church. It is a way to describe our relationship to, and our feeling of belonging. It is my church, in that it is the church I attend, I give my tithes and offering to, I participate in its corporate worship, as well as other ministries it offers. It is where I find I am grounded spiritually, and also held accountable in my walk of faith. In all of those ways, it is MY church.
The idea of the church being ours becomes problematic when we want to assert ownership over the church and its ministries. The church is of God and belongs to God. We are stewards for the continuance and building up of the kingdom of God through the church we belong to.
Do we perceive the difference in language between my church, and the church I belong to? We are a part of the church, and the church is a part of us. We don’t own or possess the church. Its an interesting way to think through how we approach what we do, why we do, and who we do it for. Because we are human, and full of human failings, we can allow our own desires, biases, views, opinions, and even emotions to creep into our stewardship of the spiritual and physical resources of the church.
As an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, I have been given the discretion of how to order the life and ministry of the church. This doesn’t give me a proprietary claim to decide who I offer ministry and witness to. I have been entrusted with the offering of the sacraments of Baptism and Communion as means of grace to those who come. Its not up to me to decide who is worthy or acceptable to receive. I am to offer the means of grace, and invite persons to come and partake.
I am so very glad to be a part of a tradition which practices what is known as “open communion.” We invite all persons to the table to participate. I understand my role is to welcome all and share with all. My role is not to decide who to invite, or who to serve. In my view, God is throwing a banquet and wanting as many as possible to come and feast at God’s table. I’m not to be a guardian, a door or gate keeper. I am merely to extend the invitation to come, and the rest is up to each person.
When we come to the table, we shouldn’t come with the feeling of entitlement. “Its my church, and this is my table.” We should come with a humbleness of heart and spirit. What we are offered at the table is not because we deserve it, but because God wants and desires us to partake. When we go to someone’s home and are offered a meal, its not because we deserve it, its because the one offering wants us to extend their hospitality to us.
There are difficult moments in the life of the church, times where it seems some want to wield control as if they have the power. None of us have that power, the church and all that is a part of the church belongs to God. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to try to keep my focus on what God wants from me as one who belongs to God’s church. Beyond that, I’m simply going to offer grace to every person who comes.
May our lives reflect the goodness and hospitality of an inclusive, all loving God. What we say and do, let it follow the desires of the God who loves us unconditionally and beyond measure.
Your fellow traveler on the Way,