The Church that Amazes Jesus
I am currently in Europe – to be specific, nestled in the 1.62 oval-shaped mile area of Brugge, Belgium’s historic center. This prominent world heritage sight boasts a number of awe-some, medieval, ornate cathedrals. I confess, I love cathedrals with their icons seeped in symbol.
As I watched people “taking in” the cathedrals, I could not help but notice that most of them seemed unmoved from a spiritual perspective. Additionally, the authors of the available literature on each cathedral scripted their brochures from an historical and artistic angle, as opposed to a spiritual one. (By spiritual, I mean: worshipful, motivated by a desire to worship, in reverence of a Holy God.)
For me, the touring of the cathedrals produced an array of emotions. On the one hand, my soul swelled with worship – a sense of awe, beauty, majesty. Yes! These buildings scream the greatness of God…albeit hardly scratching the surface of the God with an uncontainable presence (Isaiah 66:1). On the other hand, my heart sank at the thought of these magnificent structures – filled with symbol intended to point to the God who is over all – having been relegated to nothing more than an historical relic, preserved for the sake of antiquity and artistic beauty. In the next breathe, I caught a whiff of disgust as I peered upon the rich priestly robes intricately woven from fine fabrics, papal crowns reminiscent of royalty, chalices molded from precious metals, and ginormous silver candlesticks (two even larger than the crucifix betwixt them in the relics' protective glass case). I contemplated the unknown sums of money and manual effort that had gone into building – and continues to be poured into maintaining – these finite earthen structures, while too many of God’s image-bearers live with hunger-swollen bellies, diseased flesh, and rotting souls.
In sorrow, I reflected on the contrast to these manmade structures, i.e. when Jesus draped Himself in humanity, He did not adorn Himself in the finery of kings nor did He surround Himself with the accouterments of royalty. No. Jesus, robed in the garb of a common man, stepped into the dregs of humanity and fraternized with the outcasts.
Suddenly, interrupting my own reflections, I heard the whisper of King Jesus, “Monica, THIS is the church that makes me gape in amazement, weep with joy, stand to My feet and applaud.”At that moment, the mosaic floor, onto which my eyes had been focused, transformed and a reel of images paraded before my mind’s eye….a dimly lit hut with a small group people hovered over a solitary Bible (illegal in their country), absolutely UNDONE by the Words of Life inked on a thin paper. A small group of doctors, having forfeited a six-figure income and sure-thing retirement, administrating immunizations to the poor and indigent in Honduras. Two dirty men, imprisoned for their faith, hunched in a corner reciting Scripture to one another. A middle-aged man in his office praying with his spiritual brother after hearing of the sudden death of his beloved family member. A group of college students standing outside a bar, not to cast judgment and warn of sure-fire hell, but to offer a safe ride home and life’s real Hope. Three women, overwhelmed by toddlers and dirty dishes, encouraging one another to set their eyes on Jesus and an eternal perspective in the midst of the seemingly mundane.
Yes, THIS is Jesus’ church…breath-taking and beautiful, majestic and momentous, living up to its glorious commission. Can you picture it? Can you see Jesus smiling, tears of joy streaming down His face? Can you hear all of heaven applauding? I want to be a part of that church. I want to hear the applause of heaven. Anyone want to join me?