Why do we come to Him, if we do? Why do we stay with him, if we do? What takes us on a journey from church to church, if we do that, is the thought of finding him more fully, even though we, the finite, cannot comprehend the Infinite; but we can find him in a place which feeds us as we need feeding; if the place we are in does not do that, we are bound to ask questions. The early Christians did not live lives of eremetic virtue, they lived as we do, in busy communities, and their church family was a place where they found each other and shared that with the Risen Lord; he was what mattered to them, and they shared their wonder with each other and him in acts of worship. From those acts came the liturgies we see as the mists of the immediate post-Apostolic era recede – but we need to recall they took place in houses, or in cellars, there was no grand ceremony – which does not mean there was no beauty. What could be more beautiful to those who were broken than to meet and give thanks to him who had saved them, and to take his body and blood and listen to the memoirs of the Apostles?
What survives is so little, and too much of it because it reflected disputes – but then without that, we should have few letters from Paul or anyone else; it was because those early saints were still sinners that God used their weaknesses to give the ages to come the guidance which remains as fresh now as then. We see Paul so clearly in Romans, and his brokenness mirrors our own we do what we do not want to, and we feel powerless – and if we rely on our own power and will, or on the law and our ability to stick to it, we shall go badly wrong, time after time. But if we let ourselves trust in his infinite mercy and love, we shall grow in him and what was broken shall be mended. We cannot be whole save in him.
We can lose a sense of this if we think only in terms of ‘going to church on Sunday’. For those of us who know we meet him in the sacraments at the altar rail or wherever, it can be a climactic moment, so much so that we can forget what a gift we have, and even begin to imagine ourselves somehow worthy of it because we are regular in our church attendance. We are no more worthy of his Grace than those who do not know it – or those who refuse it – we are simply further on a journey they have not yet begun – and we should pray that they can begin – and soon.
This skates neatly around what has to be skated around. Each here has his or her own view, and it is the one, usually, that their church takes on such matters. I respect that, but God knows all things – even that deep mystery of where the boundaries of his church are – to him. Me? I know only who it is I encounter at the altar rail, and so am bound simply to say if he is there, who am I to say where he is not? Broken as I am, I am not so broken that I think I comprehend more than that He has saved me.