The “communion notice” in our church bulletin last Sunday began with the following statement, which (as someone who has done his fair share of “running back and forth” in his time) I found deeply moving and comforting:
Christ has not left us to run back and forth throughout creation, searching here and there to find him. By his own promise, the Word made flesh still comes to us with his body and his blood in the Lord’s Supper.
That is one of the great comforts I’ve found in joining the Lutheran church: the clarity with which it says, “Here is a place where you can be sure Christ is present with you and for you; here is a place where you can end your restless searching for this or that spiritual experience; here is a place where Christ still comes to us in his Word and sacraments as he came to us in the flesh twenty centuries ago.”
The clarity with which it insists that attending church is not simply a pragmatic means of maintaining our faith through the help and support and example of other Christians (the idea behind the old “coal in the fire/coal out of the fire” analogy), but a place where we can be sure of finding Christ (or rather, being found by him) and hearing him tell us again that he loves us and has forgiven us.
Note that this isn’t saying we don’t find Christ elsewhere. For example, Kletos Sumboulos on the BHT (who is a psychologist and counsellor*) posted a wonderful prayer asking God to “grant us diligence and attention to our vocations” so that:
“…we may be Christ to our clients in our service as they are Christ to us in their need.“
But sometimes our awareness of Christ being everywhere can end up feeling little different from Christ being nowhere. It is one of the great blessings of the gospel that Christ has given us particular places and times where he especially promises to be with us, and it is those times that enable us, perhaps, to see him present elsewhere in those who serve us and whom we serve.
(* Kletos: please correct me if I’ve got that wrong. Like everyone else, I get hopeless confused by the distinctions between psychology, psychotherapy, psychiatry and all the rest of it…)