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While I was living away, the thing I looked forward to most about coming home – after Cadbury’s chocolate and mum’s shepherd pie and cuddles with my dog, of course ūüėČ – was going back to my home church. ¬† I’ve been to other churches, found friends and spiritual growth in those places, but there’s just something about the church you call home that makes it special. ¬†Sometimes, your home church is the one you grew up in, sometimes you find it later on in life and wondered how you survived so long without it. ¬†But whenever you find it, the church that becomes your home is something wonderful. ¬†And one of the reasons it’s so wonderful is because of the people in it: your family.

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We should probably distinguish between the church and the church, here. ¬†There’s the big CHURCH, the body of Christ, the church around the world. ¬†And then there’s the other church, your church, my church, Sunday morning tea and coffee, the Bible study laughter memories, the red-cushioned pews and Hawaiian themed social nights. ¬†Yes, they’re the same in some ways, but they are also different.

Let’s take a moment to be honest. ¬†The church – the big church, that is – is not perfect. ¬†In fact, at times through history it has been very far from perfect. ¬†It has hurt and halted and hindered. ¬†It still gets things wrong. It tries, and sometimes it doesn’t quite succeed. ¬†Some people might expect it to be perfect, but let’s put that into perspective. ¬†The only perfection is in the God the church serves.

Our church – the Sunday morning, red-cushioned pews church – isn’t perfect either. ¬†Sometimes the tea is weak and there’s no chocolate digestives left. ¬†Sometimes it’s so cold that you have to sit in your big winter coat even though you put on your nice dress specially for the service. ¬†Sometimes, people forget to show up to the special event everyone had such high hopes for. ¬†Sometimes, you get more frustrated because other people aren’t frustrated enough. ¬†But let’s put that into perspective too. ¬†The only perfection is in the God this church serves.

I love my church. ¬†Yes, I sometimes wish little things were different, or that there was a coffee machine or a musician playing the banjo in worship time. ¬†But I wouldn’t change it and I always come back to it.

Because it’s home. ¬†And it’s home because it’s where my family is.

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Today was my second weekend at church since arriving back in the UK. ¬†And it was great. ¬†I got to see family I haven’t seen in too long, got to share hugs I have waited a year for, got to talk and laugh and pray and love together. ¬†One of our readings was from Acts, the verses that paint the most beautiful picture of what church really is:

They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers. ¬†Everyone around was in awe‚ÄĒall those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person‚Äôs need was met. ¬†They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.

Acts 2:42-47

Church, if we do it right, is beautiful. ¬†It is joyful and marvelous and full of love and joy and power. ¬†Church, if we do it right, isn’t just a Sunday thing or a building-with-a-spire thing. ¬†Church, if we do it right, is about relationships, about sharing, about standing out from the crowd and being a shining example of God’s love and unity. ¬†Church, if we do it right, brings glory to God and hope to the world. ¬†Church, if we do it right, grows and grows and grows and still knows every member of the family by name and favourite chocolate biscuit.

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My church is still not perfect. ¬†But it is perfect for me. ¬†Because even when the tea is weak or the biscuit tin is full of crumbs, what never runs out is the love of my family there. ¬†Whether it’s been a week, or a month, or a year, you are welcomed home with the open arms of family that mirror the open arms of a loving Father welcoming home His beloved child. ¬†That’s what church looks like, when we do it right.

With a family like that, you can forgive a few broken biscuits, right… ūüėČ

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