Here is the church
Here is the steeple,
Open it up,
and see all the people.
What is the church? Where is the church? In the scriptures, this is a frustratingly ambiguous question. Is the church the building? No, but linguistically we refer to buildings as churches. Is there church people? Yes, but church refers to a specific people. Everyone is not the church. There are boundaries. These boundaries are the point of doctrine. It is not to keep us in line but to help us from lying to ourselves. That is, as humans, it is incredibly easy to justify any action we may take. We can rationalize anything. Doctrine helps not to rationalize what is destructive.
Like drinking bleach. If I tell someone not to drink bleach, they may think me authoritarian, but I am seeking their wellbeing in a concrete way. This is what God reveals to us with doctrines like the T
With the meaning of the church, we define more to give us an opportunity to flourish as the body of Christ. We can define it in a myriad of ways that are good in themselves but do not get to the heart of the matter.
The church is not just what happens in worship, but if we are not worshipping God, we are not being the church. We may be a benevolent organization working for good in the world, but we are not being the body of Christ and we limit what God can do in our lives and give to us. Article XIII defines the church as the congregation where the pure word of God is proclaimed and the sacraments administered.
This means that when we stop baptizing people, we stop being the church. When we stop sharing the supper of the Lord, we stop being the church. When we stop preaching the Word of God, we stop being the church.
It also means that when we baptize, God is here. When we share the table, God is here. When we preach the Word, God is here. We are the body of Christ. God desires us to flourish together for God’s glory in this world. As it says in our communion liturgy.
Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here,
and on these gifts of bread and wine.
Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ,
that we may be for the world the body of Christ,
redeemed by his blood.
By your Spirit make us one with Christ,
one with each other,
and one in ministry to all the world,
until Christ comes in final victory
and we feast at his heavenly banquet.
Through your Son Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit in your holy Church,
all honor and glory is yours, almighty Father,
now and forever. Amen.
Article XIII — Of the Church
The visible church of Christ is a congregation of faithful people in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments duly administered according to Christ's ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.