MY city is built on a river. Quite a number of churches and a synagogue are still located within two to three blocks of the river. Here's part of the reason why they were built there. In the nineteenth century, logs from the northern part of the state were floated down the river to mills or for shipping to other parts of the world. When the river drivers arrived, they were looking for dance halls, bars, and other similar forms of entertainment. The majority were not noticeably interested in the nearby ch urches. But don't you suppose those churches were interested in the men? Were making efforts to reach out and spread God's Word?
One common thread among Christian churches is the Lord's Prayer, which is found in the Bible in Matthew's Gospel. Christ Jesus, who gave us the prayer, began it with "our Father. He never specified denominations or sects, just "our Father. As we start from this basis, we gain a more loving perception of our brethren-- whether they're loggers or business men and women.
The Bible records much of Paul's counsel to "followers of God. In his letter to the Ephesians, for instance, he refers to his audience, which certainly includes us today, as "dear children and counsels them--counsels us--to "walk in love; to avoid filthiness and foolish talk; to be grateful; not to allow themselves to be deceived; and to "walk as children of light. These and his other exhortations certainly have no denomination or sect. Again, they are a basis from which we can all take action together.
In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, gives an explanation of Church that I love. It starts: "Church. The structure of Truth and Love; whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle. Isn't that a marvelous foundation for Church? What better way to think of church, both yours and mine. With Love, God, as the source, tenderness, benevolence, and worship flow from the church into the community.
She continues, "The Church is that institution, which affords proof of its utility and is found elevating the race, rousing the dormant understanding from material beliefs to the apprehension of spiritual ideas and the demonstration of divine Science, thereby casting out devils, or error, and healing the sick.
When we're actively involved in church ourselves, it's natural to want to prove the utility, the usefulness, of the church to those with whom we come in contact. Obedience to Christ Jesus' teachings can't help rousing "the dormant understanding to a higher spiritual level of grace. In praying for a more spiritual concept of Church to be manifested in our communities we must also be alert to cast out error in its various guises. Paul warns in Colossians "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy an d vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. By lifting our thought to spiritual seeking and listening, we nurture our receptivity to a purer understanding of godly attributes.
Sometimes the resistance to good may come as a suggestion that "my prayers aren't good enough or spiritual enough to help me, much less my community. When we recognize that it is Christ, Truth, that gives substance to our prayer, we see that we can successfully oppose this resistance to good. Then we see the irresistible power of prayer. It draws the community together. It unites us. Let us unite and pray daily for the radiance of Church in our community and in our world.