“Somewhere between a whisper and a roar, Somewhere between the altar and the door, somewhere in the middle you’ll find me” (Mark Hall)
I love the Church. Herein, I speak of the Church as the place where we gather and the structure of the organisation, its worship services and its councils and it’s work in the world. Not just a building, not just an organisation, but the people of God in community. The Body of Christ!
Our way of being church runs deep! We who are many are one body for we all partake of the one bread. We are called to organised religion. We are called to belong, we are called to be a people, not just a person. Our relationship with God is personal but should not be individualistic. At the altar I lay my life down to become part of the body, at the door I am challenged by the individualism of the world. For many when they go out the door they face the world alone, spending their days outside of the community of worshippers, in the harsh realities of the secular world. We live between the altar and the door, the things of God and the things of the world. The desire to be fully focused on God and the demands upon us as we live in the world.
I love the Church, the symbolism, the sermon preached by the ceremony and the order of worship; the altar frontal and burse and veil, the candles and the cross that stands above the altar.
I love the church ‘God is here as we his people meet to offer prayer and praise. Here the children find a welcome, here the cross has central place. Here in honesty of preaching, here in silence and in speech, God the spirit comes to each.’
When I kneel at the altar, when I sit in my stall, when I pray over the holy vessels, and speak God’s love over His people, life makes sense. As a priest I look out over a congregation all looking towards the altar. All focussed on the presence of Christ. And it is good.
I have the privilege of seeing the faces; eyes revealing the desire to believe, the longing for the words of God to touch their hearts and heal and inspire them. I see the pain of doubt and the joy of hope. For we all live between the altar and the door, the sense of it all and the confusion of it all, and the Holy Spirit hovering over the chaos of our lives bringing order.
As I stand in the middle of the church looking to the altar of answers and then to the door to a world of questions, I am grateful that God in Christ, is Emmanuel.
I love the seasons of the church that remind us of the whole story of God and His people and am deeply aware of the privilege that we have been given.
As I meditate on God’s Church today, I am mindful that we have uncertainty about the Church. In the words of the hymn, ‘ Midst toil and tribulation and tumult of her war, she waits the consummation, of peace forevermore.” As we wrestle with the issues of our day holding onto what we consider orthodoxy and being challenged by an ever-changing world around us. Out of the Storehouse come things old and new. (Matthew 13:52) and somewhere in the middle you’ll find me.
As we gather as church, we stand between the altar and the door in need of forgiveness, and embracing the words of absolution, but knowing that outside the door my temptations await me. Hearing the Gospel and longing to put it into practice, easily doing that with the words of the prayers and songs, but knowing that living it out, on the other side of the door requires sacrifice and perseverance. I want to keep my eyes on Jesus, on the cross, but outside there are so many distractions.
And so, we call on the Name of the Lord and ask the Holy Spirit to walk with us, as St Paul said: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us walk in step with the Spirit.” (Gal 5:25) (Walk in step literally means to march)
This lent may our vision of the throne room of grace not wane as we walk the streets of our lives.
May we see the sacred in everything and may what we do in Corporate worship, as the Church gathered, find expression in our daily lives, as we ‘be’ the Church in the world.
In Church the bible is our guide – we need to read it daily and be guided by it.
In Church we sing God’s praises and focus our thoughts on him, let us sing his praises and focus on him, daily.
In Church we light candles and say – in this place the light of Christ shines, let us carry that light into our daily lives.
Let us take what makes sense in the church and live it out in the world.
In our councils we have committed to addressing the issues of our time, environmental justice, climate change, gender-based violence, among others; let us seriously take that to heart and apply ourselves to being who we are – God’ people sent to love the world back to him.
I love the Church. God has chosen us to abide right here in the middle of the controversies and the tribulations and to worship him and provide ritual for us to hold onto and make sense of our lives.
I love the Church in which we invite the Holy Spirit to take control of us and build us into a community of sinners seeking forgiveness and walking in faith.
I encourage you as we reach this point in the Lent meditations to consider your love for God’s Church. What do you believe about the Church, what role are you playing in serving her? You are the Church, called by God to be the people of God.
As St Paul says “ I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should embrace this point of view.” (Phil 3:13ff)
May the Spirit of God strengthen you in your recommitment to His Church.
‘Somewhere between the hot and the cold
Somewhere between the new and the old
Somewhere between who I am and who I used to be
Somewhere in the middle, you’ll find me.’
Today, as you stand between the altar and the door, you have a choice to make. May God guide you, as you consider your commitment to His Church.
Let us pray:
Lord, give me the strength to hold onto my vision of you so that I may live my life to your praise and glory.