As I stood in front of my church to offer blessings this week, I kept fixating on its shadow. Our church building casts a large shadow on the designer furniture store directly across the street. Strangely enough, I hadn’t even noticed it before. The clear outline, the cross taking shape right above a massive display window. I felt proud of that shadow, and held within it as I stood there on the sidewalk. “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1)
It's no surprise that I'm drawn to the places where church meets world. There's something so uniquely beautiful, for example, about a funeral procession that spills out from the church onto the street. The casket is carried down the steps and loaded into the hearse while a priest offers prayers. Then the priest pronounces a final blessing over the deceased, making the sign of the cross before the door to the hearse is closed. People on the sidewalk will often stop for this brief ritual, looking on or bowing their heads in reverence. Family members cry, hug and share words of consolation born out of their faith in God and assurance of eternal life. Then a few minutes later the busy street is back to normal.
Of course there's more to church meeting world than explicitly religious actions in public spaces. It happens wherever the Good News is proclaimed in word or deed. Wherever Christians have spilled out of the church to spread the kingdom of God.
I love looking out over our sanctuary as I lead in worship, in part because I can see through huge double doors onto Madison Avenue. I have a view of buses, taxis, bicycles, pedestrians. The same video ad that designer furniture store has been running for literally two years straight. I don't even mind hearing horns or sirens in the middle of a service, although the sound of ill-timed construction work can be a bit annoying.
Ministering in this space provides a pretty neat juxtaposition between church and world, and a reminder to always be connecting the two. We come in on Sundays to nurture our faith so that we can live it out the rest of the week. We come in to build one another up in the body of Christ so we can be Christ’s hands and feet in the world. We come in to be nourished in worship and the Eucharist so we can show hungry people where to find spiritual food, and living water, and saving grace.
The thing about God’s house -- our church home -- is that we’re not meant to stay there. We’re meant to be fed and renewed and then venture out to do God’s work. To come and go and come back again, always met with open arms, always having a place at the table, and always welcome to bring home a friend.