A few weeks ago, I received an email from a friend who said that he and his family would like to come visit one Sunday but only “if you allow sinners in.” I responded that we only allow sinners in. He answered with a smiley face emoji.
While my response was true, there is also something to be said for the church as a sanctified (saintly) community. It is one of our perennial great tensions: are we a haven for saints or a hospital for sinners? The answer, of course, is yes.
Yet, it’s often easier for us to admit to our sinful nature. Occasionally, on a Sunday, we will greet you with “Good morning, saints. Good morning, sinners.” Our more cheerful, and louder, response is inevitably to the latter. We get that we are sinners. We find it harder to name our holiness.
We believe in a holy church, we say. But do we really believe it? And if we do, what do we mean by it?
This Sunday, on what looks to be a balmy spring day after seven inches of snow, we’ll gather as the one, holy people that God calls together at First UMC to explore those questions. What do we mean when we say that the church is “holy” and “can we really believe it?” We’ll hear from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians again (Ephesians 1:1-14) and we’ll listen in to Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:43-48). We’ll sit with the truth that, perhaps, when we speak of the church’s holiness it is an attribute of the community as a whole and that we, individually, strive to live into it. Then, we’ll boldly and brazenly welcome new members through baptism into the family and call them to lives of holiness.
I hope to see you Sunday as we gather “in the beauty of holiness.” There will be room for saint and sinner alike.
Grace and peace.