We each have our own unique memories of taking pictures for church directories—some great, some bad, others simply awkward. I remember one of the pictures I took with my family many years ago at our former church in Texas. Minutes before we were to gather around for our picture, my brother and I had a petty sibling fight (which more than likely was started by me). Seconds before the camera clicked—just in time to wipe away all of the tears, frowns, and raised eyebrows—my dad broke it up, so that we could come together as the Dietzel family, embrace, and take our picture. Cheese! Click!
If you think about it, a church directory—with its many and various pictures—is truly a single snapshot in the life of a congregation. This booklet, printed and bound for future generations to see and snicker at, can become obsolete at a moment’s notice. With a death on the following Tuesday or a new visitor looking to transfer in on any given Sunday, a church directory is only months, weeks, or days away from reflecting the past instead of the present. Some people wonder and unabashedly ask: “Why all the trouble when in a few years some people will be gone, others will be new, and the rest of us here will look different?” As we get spruced up—with the understanding that some years from now we’ll have to do it all over again—what if we pondered the accumulation of our directory pictures in light of the communion of saints.
As we confess our faith in the words of the Apostles’ Creed each week, we say: “I believe in…the communion of saints…” To ask Martin Luther’s well known question: “What is this?” The communion of saints is not comprised of a group of sanctified superheroes combating sin, like some sacred version of Marvel’s Avengers. You and I, those who worship beside us--we all form the communion of saints. The simultaneously sinful and saintly community that gathers together in the name of the Crucified and Risen Christ is this very professed group. Yet, it is not confined to a specific time or certain place. The communion of saints stretches across the whole globe--encompassing past, present, and future: those who have died and now await the resurrection, those who wrestle with their faith today, and those who are yet to begin the journey in the waters of baptism. We each have been claimed and called to live out our sainthood in community with all others, not just those whom attend the same church.
Our church directories—whether completely accurate for a month or out-dated for a few decades—are small glimpses into the communion of saints. They do not represent the whole Body of Christ, yet they show us who the church is in this place and how God’s Spirit is working and moving in our midst. May our church directories not fill us with a sense of pride, but instead kindle our hearts with a spirit of evangelism: sharing the story with others of what God in Christ is doing here, and continually growing the communion of saints. Say cheese! Click!