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Monday, March 28, 2011

The Church

The question has come up many times while I was teaching, “What is church?” This is a good question.  For some, church (or organized religion) can be very frustrating. For some, they have been hurt by the church. For many, church can be hard to stomach, and the reasons why are difficult, complex and not easy to answer. But for some, it is a place of sanctuary. A place to get away from it all.
The Church is what followers of Christ are called to be. The Church is described in Scripture as nothing less than the body of Christ on earth. It’s not a slight, optional activity. According to Scriptures like Romans 12:5 and Ephesians 3:6, it’s the one body with many members, each an important and crucial piece of the mission of Jesus Christ. In fact, the New Testament always reserves the word church (ekklesia) for the people of God. It never uses this word to refer to a building of of any sort. In fact, for the first three centuries, the Christians did not have any special buildings in which to worship. Meeting in homes was about it, and it was a conscious choice of the early Christians. In fact, many scholars have agreed that it seems that the term, “Go to church” was first said in AD 190 by Clement of Alexandria. It would have been a phrase that was foreign to the first century believers. I mean, after all, you cannot go to something you are! No the term Ekklesia, in every one of its 114 appearances in the New Testament, refers to an assembly of people. Until the year 300 we know of no buildings first built as churches.
We always say the church is a people, and yet we are so tied to our buildings. I wonder how our view of the church would change if we truly took to heart that the church, is in fact the body of Christ- people. And given that, how then would that change the view of those on the outside who are unsure or who have been hurt by “the church”? Ancient Judaism was centered on three elements: the Temple, the priesthood, and the sacrifice. When Jesus came, He ended all three for his followers, fulfilling them in Himself. He is the temple who embodies a new and living house made of living stones. He is the priest who has established a new priesthood (for us Lutherans, the priesthood of all believers). And He is the perfect and finished sacrifice.

Friday, March 25, 2011

In Love with God or In Love with What God Can Do For You?

 I have a doozie of a question. Are we in love with God or are we more in love with what God can do for us? It’s a perfectly legit question. Too often I think I find myself more in love with what God can do for me, especially when I get caught up in my own mess. I don’t think I like that very much. I want to be in love WITH GOD! Which brings me to this verse:  A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:1-5). It really looked like the people were so worried about getting their own needs met, they had their backs turned to the very one who needed him the most. I believe those in that house that day were more in love with what Jesus could do for them than in love with him. We all get this way.  We can get so focused on what we need, what we want, what we desire from God, that we fail to see how He loves and cares for us and others.  We get so caught up in our desires, that we forget just to love Him.  So what about you? Are you more in love with God or with what God can do for you?