I am thankful for the Church.
I have been an under-shepherd of Jesus Christ and His Church since June 2008 and have been privileged to serve 2 church families during that time. Before then, I’ve worked within youth ministry, cross-cultural ministry, urban and inner-city ministry, rural ministry, I’ve been a part of big, big, big churches that you can very literally get lost in the crowd and small, small, small churches where two or three gathered in His name really means everything to them. I have been in churches where the moments of conflict would just blow you away and have seen moments of beauty in a church that brought me to tears.
I’ve been blessed with such a wide and varied set of experiences. I’ve travelled the country serving within God’s Church and seen flavors of church families I never knew existed. Sometimes I’ve grown tired of the sin that permeates and poisons God’s people within the church but I am continually held by the healing medicine that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ given freely in the Church.
I know many of you have had similar experiences as well and many have been in only one church family. But through all of the differences and the travel and the places and the names, it is God’s Church that has never changed.
It is only in God’s Church, meeting secretly because of persecution, meeting in a homeless shelter, meeting in a sanctuary, wherever God’s Church meets there are always these three blessings in common.
- The Word of God-read, spoken, preached and taught.
- The Sacraments of God– Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper with mutual consolation of the Saints.
- The People of God– sinners and saints both and the same, receiving God’s love, loving God and loving each other around the Word and the Sacraments.
No matter what has changed in my life and no matter where I have been in my faith walk our unchanging God and God’s gifts given to me through the Church where these three blessings are found has never changed.
I am thankful for the Church.
Throughout my life the church has been my family, part of my family, and my extended family all at the same time. But I’ve come to realize that even though the Church of God will never pass away until the day the Lord returns the individual expressions of the Church do come and go just as life does on this Earth.
When I say the individual expressions of the church I typically mean what we think of as church, meeting in a building or storefront, with boards and a constitution, organs and guitars. These are individual expressions of God’s Church that live and die.
When someone we love passes away as Christians we are able to mourn and grieve the loss and at the same time know joy and anticipation that we will meet again with the Lord.
So too the individual expressions of God’s Church pass away as well. Every individual expression of the church have a lifespan to them just like we do, some last for say 70-80 years, some much shorter and some much longer. Even those individual churches that have lasted into the hundreds of years typically have experienced a time of rebirth so that the church family that is worshipping in a particular building now is very different from the church family that worshipped there 100 years ago.
We die as Christians and go to be with the Lord and our individual churches die as well and return to the Lord after their time of service. But the Lord’s Church never dies and we are a part of that Church eternally.
This is something that we can come to be at peace with and learn to be thankful for the expression of the church that we have right now. We do this by realizing what we do with our own life knowing that we will die too.
We live. Right here and right now for Jesus. We receive God’s love and we love well back, we pray, we sing, we care for each other and our world. We do the work God has called us to do while we are still here.
The church that we worship with in the building we worship within is here for a season and moment of time. It will not be here forever. It will die. So as a church family, right here and now we receive God’s love and we love well back, we pray, we sing, we care for each other and our world. We do the work God has called us to do while we are still here.
Be thankful for what we have. Sometimes we can treat the church family like it will always be there and it won’t. But because we believe it will always be there, we neglect our giving and caring for the church family and just assume we can do it another day. But that’s not how it works. The time will come when this particular church family will pass away, like everything else. Don’t wait to be a part of what God is doing in this place and time and don’t just assume it will always be here because it won’t. Don’t neglect the gifts God has given you for your good and your salvation.
Right here and now before we die, be thankful and care for the church family you do have.