I close every Double Your Class Seminar with a story of some friends who lost a five year old son and how the church—their Sunday School class gathered at their house at midnight one night to decorate their house for them. One of the phrases I use in that talk is borrowed from a line from Twila Paris's song “How Beautiful.” She repeats it over and over, “How beautiful, how beautiful, how beautiful is the body of Christ.”
It really is a beautiful thing to see the body of Christ act like the body of Christ. It has been my privilege to hear dozens of touching stories of how the body of Christ has acted like the body of Christ. It is really a beautiful thing.
We may not be all that we could be, should be, can be, but the church, when it just acts like a church is a beautiful thing.
Someone in Oklahoma shared with me recently about how they lost a 20 year old son. After his death they were haunted by the memories of living in the same house where they had shared life with him all those years and they decided to move. They set aside some keepsake things from their son's life and then decided to have a garage sale to get rid of the rest of things. “It never really occurred to me how difficult it was going to be to watch my boy's things walk off this property at pennies on the dollar. It was as if I would be watching pieces of my son's life walk off a piece at a time. I shared this difficulty with my Sunday School class, just as a prayer request. I wasn't really expecting or asking anyone to do anything about it. Someone came up to me afterwards and said, 'You guys can take off this weekend. We will do the garage sale for you.'” That is what the body of Christ does. How beautiful.
A widow shared with me her story of how she and her husband had looked forward to retirement. They had scrimped and saved and done without their whole life so that in retirement they could buy an RV and tour the country together. They were going to Yosemite and Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon and the Kennedy Space Center and Washington D.C. and so on. They did without through much of their lives so the could live it up in retirement. “Three months before he was to retire he had a heart attack and died.” She looked around the empty seats in the auditorium. I think she could see the people who worship there each week. In a lot of country churches, people sit in the same seats every week. I think that as she looked around she could see the faces of the people who sit there on Sunday morning. Then, she looked back at me. “I want you to know that if it were not for the people who worship here on Sunday morning, I wouldn't have made it. I could tell you hundreds of stories of how these people have sent notes and called and remembered anniversaries and brought casseroles and listened as I was a bit ugly at times crying out and complaining to God about my troubles. I would not have made it without them.” That is what the body of Christ does. It is a beautiful thing.
One person told me about a situation with a prospect, a crusty lady that shunned all efforts from the church to reach her. The pastor told me how he would visit and he knew she was home but she would not answer the door. Eventually she ended up in the hospital. The pastor went to see her there. He talked her into letting her Sunday School class come into her house and clean her house while she was in the hospital. He thought may she had to leave the house suddenly and didn't have a chance to pick up and how nice it would be for her to come home to a clean house. The group agreed to help, but they were not prepared for what they found. The carpet, for example was awful. They vacuumed, but vacuuming didn't help. They steam cleaned, but steam cleaning didn't help so they replaced the carpet. When they went to replace the carpet they found that the floor was rotting, so they replaced the floor. That is what the body of Christ does. And the magic of the Christian life is that those people who served found greater joy in that than a trip to Disneyland. We really are blessed when we bless. How beautiful.
We have a situation in my church right now where one of my friends—one of those truly good people in this world—has had some major back problems. He had two 12 hour surgeries and the situation is, at this time, touch and go. He has three adopted eight year old kids at home. It is really sad. But, it is really beautiful how their Sunday School class in a time like this will call and comfort and care and pray and see that we do not have to grieve or go through the storms of life alone.
My son turned 17 the other day. As would be his style, he started the party at 9:00 p.m. at the bowling alley. They do this “glow-mania” thing that is part bowling, part party. Actually, it is mostly party. They have a live D. J. that coaxes people out to do the Macarana and to dance the YMCA dance and such. It was a real Normal Rockwell moment for me to see him, a full 6' 4" tall and a rather handsome young man if I do say. He was surrounded by 25 or so good friends, mostly from church, a few of which he has known since he was a child. They laughed and danced and ate and acted goofy, and yes, they bowled a little. Mostly, they just celebrated the fact that although life can be painful at times for all of us, there is some good to be celebrated and some joy to be had. Life is good sometimes. It was beautiful.
The sad thing is, many are cut off from that beauty. Even many who believe in God are cut off from that beauty. Our job is not only to connect them with the beauty of God, but also to connect them with the beauty of the church.
It is a beautiful bride, the body of Christ. Not a perfect bride. Full of wrinkles and imperfections to be sure, but beautiful still.
And so, I ask you again, to give your one and only life to Christ, and not only to Christ, but also to the bride of Christ. As Christ laid down his life, so we are to lay down our lives for one another. It is a beautiful thing to do so.