For several years, my husband, John, and I regularly traveled to Sandpoint, Idaho; restoring our hearts, souls and minds on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille. Of course sitting on the deck at Starbucks was one of the requirements to achieve restoration.
One summer day, the conversation at the table next to us caught our attention. Apparently, those two young men had started a new church in the area. They were discussing the pros and cons of having “care groups”. Since we are the shy, retiring types, we broke into their conversation to share the pros we have experienced in our own care group. During the conversation, the name of their new church was mentioned…Cedar Hills.
Time passed and some summers went by. John and I decided to go to Sandpoint over the 4th of July weekend. That meant we would be there on a Sunday. On Saturday evening, almost simultaneously, we began to talk of visiting the church we had previously heard about. I pulled the name “Cedar Hills” from the recesses of my mind. John wondered if his shorts and sandals attire would be appropriate to wear.
Sunday morning, we asked the young lady at the front desk of our motel if she had heard of it. She was delighted to give us directions, as she had attended there. It was a warehouse. Before we entered the “sanctuary”, an older lady behind a welcome desk offered each of us a packet containing earplugs. Just how loud was the music?
It was loud, but we kept the plugs in our pockets. Coffee urns were along the side. Folding chairs made up the pews. As we looked around, we could see the average age of the attendees was probably 35. They regularly re-filled their coffee cups during the service. The preacher had on shorts and sandals. He referred to their church as “the gathering”. But I clearly remember his message.
A few years later, to celebrate John’s 60th birthday, we arranged a family gathering over the 4th of July weekend in Bend, Oregon. When John and I arrived in town, we stopped to get a bite to eat. As we were being seated in the restaurant, we passed a booth where a young man sat…reading the Bible. John said, “good book”, as we walked by.
After placing our orders, John returned to the booth to talk with the man. He was a pastor, working on his Sunday sermon. His church had no building, but met on the grounds of an elementary school in the area. When John returned to our booth, he was equipped with a map showing us the way for Sunday.
John and I, our children and grandchildren sat on folding chairs on the lawn, in the bright morning sunshine, with the sounds in the background of children enjoying the play-ground. Once again, the pastor had on shorts and sandals. And once again, I remember his message. In the days and weeks to come, one of our daughters referred to that specific sermon as a guiding light in helping her with a major decision.
We are members of a local congregation. We have a beautiful new “worship center”. John and I attend regularly and serve in various roles within the church. I remember many of the sermons from the lips of our pastor. I feel blessed to be a part of this congregation.
But that is not the “church”. No matter where I might travel in the world, if I seek it, I can find the “church”. It might be in someone’s home…or in an unused movie theater. The building is not the important part. The people who gather to meet with the Lord are the “church”…and you can meet them in airports and subways, on busy streets or on a farm.
I may be far from home, but in visiting with the stranger next to me, it doesn’t take long to discover whether they are a member of the same “church” as me…that we are following the same “Christ”. This allows us to speak the same language.
I’ve prayed with strangers, sometimes before I even know their name. I’ve given a good Christian book to someone who hasn’t read it…and received books in the same manner. When your soul connects with another Christian, you are suddenly friends.
Christians have world wide access to other Christians…known as the “church”.
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