Matthew 5: 1 – 7
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
When Jesus needed to speak and teach a large crowd, where did he go? To the Temple in Jerusalem? To the plushest synagogue he could find? No of course not he went up he went up a hill so he could both be seen and heard by the largest number possible.
When John Wesley undertook his evangelical tours the only way he could speak to enough people was to preach from the back of a horse in the open air. Following the Great Disruption of 1843 when the Church of Scotland split the new Church for a long time did not have Churches in which to worship and for many years barns sawmills even public houses were pressed into service but more often than not services were conducted in the open air. Sometimes as in Comrie from a local promontory, even as in Argyll from a boat anchored just off shore (this was because the local Laird refused to allow any Minister on his land). In short anywhere could be and indeed was used as a place of worship until such times as funds could be accrued to build a new church, which hopefully would be bigger and better than the existing Church of the “established” church!
Once the Church was built and the congregation had moved in were the prayers more meaningful, the Readings more profound or the preaching more inspiring? Well they may or may not have been, but whether they were or not was in no way determined by the building.
We Christians love our churches, it’s where we got married, it’s where our children were Baptised, it’s where our loved ones had their funerals, even if we have no live faith we still have a connection with the building for these reasons.
But if this Lockdown has demonstrated one thing it is that the Church is not a building it is a community, as the hymn says ‘The church is not a building; the church is not a steeple; the church is not a resting place; the church is a people’.
We are all the Church and when our buildings are open again for worship we shall gather once more in community, the fact we will be indoors is just coincidental.
Lord God our loving Father in Heaven, as we approach the end of Lockdown, as we anticipate meeting again in your house, may we remember you are everywhere not just in the building we call Church. May we be your Church in the shops, in the cafes, in the streets or wherever we are.
In your Mercy hear our prayer,