All over the living rooms of Georgia and Alabama (and many other states with fans, I suspect) crowds will gather tonight. The new Mercedes-Benz stadium here in Atlanta will see its newly polished seats packed as thousands gather to cheer on their favorite team to victory. I’ll be with my own family, dressed in whatever red and black I can dig up in my closet, eating red sugar- coated cupcakes made by my daughter, drinking out of brown solo cups made to look like little footballs. We will gather with purpose, with excitement, with anticipation and with cheers….and, hopefully, Georgia will pull out a victory!
We were made to gather, made to assemble together. We’ve all heard the saying, “there is strength in numbers” and it is said because it is true. We gather at the mall in pursuit of the latest fashion. We gather at the movies to be thrilled by the latest showing. We gather in stadiums to cheer our teams to victory and we gather in schools to ensure our children are educated.
Yet the most important place for gathering is the church. Gathering is God’s idea and its a good one. The idea of gathering is gospel vocabuary. In Mathew 23:37 Jesus cries out with passion to His people, “How I long to gather you like little chicks!” Later in Hebrews 10:25 we are reminded to gather as a body of believers and “not forsake the assembling of ourselves together”. Gathering encourages us, inspires us and renews us for the liturgy of living. Sunday church re-calibrates our hearts and we cannot do without it if we want to keep growing in a kingdom mindset in the the midst a very secular age.
Like those gathered across the country tonight in various places with one common purpose (to see their team win!) the church can be both catholic and ecclectic as well and should be- whether meeting in country parishes or elaborate cathedrals, refurbished movie theaters or store front rentals. Not an isolated community of Amish or Benedict-opters but rather a “republic of the imagination” as James K.A. Smith would have it. A republic to which we pledge allegiance, which has its own unifying documents (the Bible) and its own civc duties (widows, orphans, the poor, “go ye”).
So go on and gather for the big game tonight. But let us also assemble in the church stadium Sunday morning with the same shouts of enthusiasm and expectation. There’s a sure victory party to be celebrated there because of all Jesus has already won on our behalf.