Son Times - Spring 2013
You can’t have one without the other.
Have you ever had someone claim that they believe in God but they don’t go to church? That’s always seems odd to me and on occasions when it has happened I have ask them why. The answer is usually something along the lines of I worship in my own way or I am closest to God in nature. The fact of the matter is you can’t have one without the other. You cannot claim to believe in and love Jesus in one breath and yet ignore His body, the church, in the next breath. They are joined together as one. They are one flesh. The risen and glorified Jesus and His Bride the Church, which includes you, are one, just as husband and wife are one flesh.
Congregational life is not optional, if it were then what were the apostles doing running around establishing congregations? And when those congregations were without a pastor, the apostle Paul insisted that they were lacking something (a shepherd for that flock) and specifically told Titus to go to the various congregations without a pastor and appoint one (Titus 1:5). From the viewpoint of the Scriptures both congregations and pastors are gifts from God and not human inventions.
Being a part of a Lutheran (Christian) congregation is just like being a part of a family. There are members of your family who you love dearly and enjoy being around and there are members that are not all that easy to get along with. Although that may be true it doesn’t mean you run them out of the family. A congregation is really an extended family and there will be personalities that occasionally rub others the wrong way. The challenge, then, is to remember that they are, in fact, family and learn to live, and when they sin forgive, and carry on. Just like regular family. Those who refuse to repent however must at some point be lovingly confronted and called to repentance. If they refuse they have put themselves outside the family.
If we claim to be a Christian and a fellow sinner whose only hope is the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ that makes us part of the Body of Christ (I Corinthians 12.) So what do God’s people do? They hunger after God’s Word and Sacraments, things He has established for the strengthening of our faith and for the forgiveness of our sins. When Christians deny themselves the privilege of hearing God’s Word, don’t participate in the Sacramental life of the church, and the mutual fellowship of believers, they are rejecting Christ and His gifts.
It’s this rejection that leads to the claim that church is not very “spiritual” or it has no “spirituality” or “I am not being fed” or other such excuses. It’s easy to take for granted the proper preaching of Christ’s word and the gifts we receive in His sacraments and like a spoiled child on their birthday complain when we didn’t get what we want. Never considering what we need or what’s best for us.
It is true that since institutions are made up of humans they are given to human short comings. But then who isn’t? But it is also true that despite our short-comings, the congregation is the place where our Christian faith is strengthened and expressed. It is in the liturgical life of the congregation where we see the Body of Christ at work. Here we see God’s people lifting one another up in prayer. Here we learn more about the incredible love of God from His Word. Here we gather around the Lord’s Table, and touching the lives of one another as the hands of Christ. The congregation is one of the main places where we see God at work. Serving us with His gifts. Why would any Christian not want to be a part of that?
No, the congregation isn’t a perfect place, but it is God’s divine design for His people, it’s His bride. You can’t have one without the other. Come and see!