My new friend Jim Palmer has a chapter in his new book, Wide Open Spaces, titled, “Here is the Church, Here is the Steeple …” Wow what memories that title drew forward. Maybe you recall hands clasped saying that little diddy while moving your hands correspondingly,
Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors, see all the people.
Many of us recall our parents readying us “for church.” When asked, “Where are we going?,” it was far easier to say, “To church” than, “We are going to a building where the church meets.” It is more accurate to say the latter.
Jim works through the troublesome framework of equating a building with church rather than church as people. He rightly notes many of the common misperceptions created when we talk about “going to church” and ending up at a building rather than saying something like, “We are going to meet with the church.”
The point should be noted Jim has not dismissed church, he has simply relocated it. What sometimes gets confusing is the near elimination of “church” in relationship to Kingdom of God. One could make this dissolution work, maybe, if we operated from an eschatological perspective reminiscent of post-millennialism. Certain that Jim’s intended audience would be less interested in the-ism’s associated with a”millennial” view, it may be better to suggest how one handles the notion of hope and fulfillment.
If the Kingdom of God has any future implications connected to the return of Jesus then hope has both temporal and “eternal” expressions. Temporal expressions would be glimpses of what it would like like for the world to be completely set right. Not just an operation of the soul, but a redemption and restoration of all things. Here the people of God, in many hopeful cases local communities described as churches, live into the clothes of Jesus so that Advent is both anticipated and ongoing. (see Romans 13:11-14)
In the words of a song we recently learned in our community of faith wherein we must be the expression of the humble King who,
is God of the broken the friend of the weak,Â you wash the feet of the weary embrace the ones in need
Communities of faith who live out this expression of the humble King give temporal glimpses of the Kingdom of God creating a wellspring of hope that one day these mere glimpses will be fully realized. The eternal expression would be just that, the fulfillment of New Creation.
When we think of those who come looking to be filled with a hot meal and given food for the week, we trust these temporal expressions of investing in the hungry will stir hope for the day when all will be filled.