Why We're Here

“The pastor made a promise…a really important promise,” he told me. “A short while later he broke that promise, and I just couldn’t go back. I didn’t think I could trust him.”

“My sister came out,” she said. “And they kicked our whole family out of the church. We really haven’t been anywhere since.”

Now it was my turn to ask: so why a wedding that involves the church at all? Why come looking for another preacher and another congregation when experience has told you that these things don’t always work out the way we might hope. A judge might be a safer bet.

And they agreed. A secular choice might be a smarter choice to make. But they came (they said) because they were convinced that God needed to be at the heart of the promises they were making to each other. They wanted to be prayed over. They wanted to learn what God intended for them. They knew…despite what had happened in the past…that the promise they are planning to make is more than just a legal contract to be witnessed by a court. It is a covenant to be made in the sight of the God who knows all about making and keeping covenant. I was impressed by their maturity and humbled by their tenacity.

More: I am convinced that, in an age of consumer religion, these two are an exception to the rule. They have good enough reasons to stay away. For nearly three decades, I’ve watched (hurting) as members have left the places I have served for much less compelling reasons than this couple had. And I’ve come to recognize that that’s how it works. In a culture that often treats its religion like retail, whatever has attracted my attention this week is what I buy. So if I don’t like your politics or your music or your Aunt Bessie, I’m out of here. There’s always the next place down the street or online. Or I can just drop out all together and not have to put up with any of the messiness that comes with human organizations.

I keep hoping the church might be different…that it might be a community of faith as rich as its diversity. I keep hoping that we won’t make promises that we can’t keep, and that we won’t kick people out just because we don’t like who your sister thinks she might be. But, truth be told, the church is just as broken and needy as every other institution in our society. You can put a cross on her door, but she’s still a mess most of the time.


Except there is that One whom we claim as Lord. That’s the difference. The Church is anchored into a rock more solid than legal systems or political opinions or social strata. And my soon-to-be-married friends, despite the troubles they had experienced, saw that truth. Beyond our debates and our differences…far greater than our misbehaviors and our brokenness…is the grace of the God who insists on claiming us as beloved children, and who bids us pray and bless and serve and heal always bearing the name of Jesus.

Why the church at all? Because for God’s sake alone, it is who we are. †


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