A few Sundays ago I walked by a group of people gathered in our fellowship hall standing over the pages of a weathered book. They were studying it with great reverence. As they looked from page to page something would often cause a collective sigh or chuckle to ring through the air. When I got close enough I noticed it was someone’s yearbook. Although it was from another time and a completely different town, it somehow held the secret history of 4 different people in church that day.
Days later I was printing our church directory, and as I reflect on that moment in the parish hall I couldn’t help but feel like the directory was sort of like that yearbook. It too holds a history. The stapled pages tell a story. They tell our story. As I looked from face to face I saw some of the most faithful people on the planet. I saw couples who have driven countless miles for nearly 6 decades through wind, snow, and rain to worship here week after week. I saw servants who without compensation or sometimes even gratitude have volunteered their time and gifts to teach or cook or sit and listen or wipe the grease out of a fish fry frying pan. But with them I also got to see people who are newest to the journey of faith. I saw children and infants that are still dripping from passing through the baptismal font. I saw adults who spent too many years wandering through a wilderness before being embraced once again in the loving arms of God. And together I saw the story of a people who refuse to believe that Christianity or the church is dead, because our God already tried death on once. It didn’t suit him, and it doesn’t suit us either. The story of a people who genuinely care not just for each other, but for all our neighbors… A people who long to grow faith in ourselves and nurture faith in each other… A people who love God and will give him the glory and praise he deserves.
But the story of a people is not the only story I encountered within. I also got to see the story of a very active God who is at work in this place showering us with forgiveness and grace, and building us up as the body of Christ. Chances are you are not pictured within the directory I mentioned, but you may be in another. If you are, I hope you always know that you are an important part of the story God is writing in your church. It would not be the same without you. And if you are reading this but aren’t yet in a directory, I hope you find a spiritual place to call home soon. It’s true, you can love God and not belong to a church. But it’s also true that it’s a lot harder. God saves a people, and God is longing to weave you into his story with others.