Summer is in full swing. But before we know it, vacations will be over, schools will be in session again, and church programs will be gearing up again. There will be lots of opportunities to sing, serve, share table fellowship, study scripture and deepen relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ. But sometimes we approach this changing rhythm with anxiety. Where did the time go? Why are we so busy? And church can seem like part of the problem.
Remember that church activities are not ends in themselves. As I have often expressed, the Church is a forward outpost in this broken world of God’s ultimate new world order, called “Kingdom of God” or “Kingdom of Heaven” in scripture. The justice and mercy and inclusivity of God’s Reign are anticipated and become at least partially present in the blessed fellowship of the Church. And so we are proud of feeding the hungry and bringing good news to the discouraged and defeated here in the center of the city. And we are proud of reaching beyond our local community and beyond the borders of our nation through our mission partnerships in Brazil and Cambodia and China and Thailand and the Congo. But even these praiseworthy activities and these partnerships of giving are not finally ends in themselves.
God speaks to us through the psalmist, saying, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:1). And again the psalmist says:
I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul within me is like a weaned child. (Psalm 131:1-2)
Too often we are tempted to reduce the church to another exemplar of our busyness, to another set of responsibilities, perhaps more noble and selfless than others, but responsibilities nevertheless. And we even reduce in our conception the Reign of God, which the Church serves and anticipates, to a cycle of justice-making activities. But the final goal is to luxuriate in the presence of the Beautiful One, to enjoy the presence of God.
The Lord God rested as the culmination of the work of creation, and thus Sabbath was born. And when “my soul within me is like a weaned child” in the presence of my Creator and Redeemer, I am beyond aggravation and anxiety. And when one day we experience the Reign of God in its fullness, we will be in the company of the elders and saints who are casting down their crowns before the throne of God and singing, You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created. (Revelation 4:11)
I pray for you, as I pray for myself, that we will know the joy and peace of the awesome and beautiful presence of God in the midst of the rush of activities — home, school, work and yes, church. “Be still, and know that I am God.”
—Dr. David L. Wheeler