I remember that evening vividly. We had a newcomer in our small group, which was meeting in my living room. As the night went on, I could tell one of my friends had something to say. Once he had the chance, he spoke and told me that I had been a bad friend to him that summer. That he had needed support—spiritual, emotional, practical—but that I hadn’t been there for him. It was a hard truth, but it was true. There were tears and the start of reconciliation.
I remember checking in with the newcomer to our small group to see whether the intensity of the evening had freaked him out. It had not, but instead had the opposite effect: witnessing a community that seeks reconciliation had been appealing.
When we approach the throne of God together, we are told to be bold. But we can bring so many fears. Fears of being judged by fellow congregants for not being Christian enough. Fears related to the shame of our sin. Worshipping God, thankfully, should be th antidote to those fears. In worship, we hear the gospel all over again. We hear that our sins are forgiven. That God has made us co-heirs with Chirst. That our calling is to love God and love our neighbours, and that the judgement of the old religious order (exemplified by the Pharisees) has no place in the kingdom of God. We can dwell, again, on the sweetness of salvation and experience the Sabbath rest of God.
At church, we meet Jesus. The Jesus who blessed the poor in spirit, those who mourn, and the meek. Who loved the contrite sinner.
As we lean into a deeper welcome and worship at our church, I have to remind myself that our brokenness, if paired with humility and earnestly seeking God, does not dimish our witness, but increases it. To be Christ’s church means making room for mourning and for those whose spirit is low. To make space for sobbing in our pews and prayers of intercession. Studies show that many newcomers arrive at church after a death in the family or a divorce. How can we be both warm and friendly in our welcome and also make room for mourning in our church?
In 2 Corinithians, Paul, after he prayed for his torment to be taken away, tells us that God replied, saying: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” God’s very vision for a strong church rests on the public confession and witness of our weakness.