The youth group that I help out with started again on Saturday night, and I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed it. The moment our band, which is now made up mostly of young people, starts playing those songs, it feels like coming home. Maybe it’s just that it’s a place that appeals to me because it seems to be what church should be (by which I mean it’s full of people who love God and it plays songs that I know in a style that I find accessible) but I wonder if it’s not more than that sometimes.
I’ve been reading Philippians recently and one of the things that Paul talks an awful lot about in that is unity. All he seems to talk about is remembering that we believe the same gospel, and living like that’s the case with each other. He knows exactly what his focus is, and maybe that’s why he’s so full of joy. And so blunt.
That doesn’t feel like something that we’re very good at in the church much of the time, though. Or maybe it’s just me. I seem to love finding reasons why I don’t have things in common with people in church, reasons to not spend time with them. It’s like Kanye sings in his song Runaway, where he talks about how he always finds something wrong, and how gifted he is at finding what he doesn’t like the most. I know how he feels. I like finding reasons to prove that I am different to other people. Somewhere deep down I think I do it on purpose, so I can write them off right away and that means we don’t have to argue.
But when our youth group comes together and we sing those old songs, some of the same songs that we have been singing as a group for years, all of that seems to matter a lot less. We affirm the common ground that we have in spite of our differences, that we believe in Jesus, and that we believe he died and his death saved us, from sin, from self-absorption, from fear, from ourselves. Maybe that is what makes it so amazing, that it works because we are people coming together to sing the old songs and in doing so remembering that we see the same truth. We may be broken and confused, we may struggle with one another and with faith, but we know what knits us together. Not every church is like that, but that is our strength, and it is a beautiful thing.
Is that what heaven will be like too? Will we step into the presence of God and hear that song that heaven has been singing for eternity, only to realise that we know all the words already? I wonder if maybe it is. And for that reason I can’t help looking forward, even now, to that day when will see Jesus in all his glory – and our differences will be put aside in awe and wonder at who he is, and all that he has achieved.