Alleluia, Christ is Risen!
From the Immanuel Lutheran Newsletter, Vol. 11, Issue 7
It is still the Easter season for the church of God. The government shut down parks, picnic spaces and public areas for Easter Sunday. They recognize that people use the Easter weekend as a reason to gather and celebrate and since we were trying to limit the spread of COVID 19 they knew they only really needed to close for one weekend. The trouble is that most people who are gathering to celebrate aren’t celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. One day of closure was all they needed to keep the masses from gathering together.
The church however lives in the Easter season. Communist regimes and anti-Christian rulers have sought to close churches for more than just one Sunday. They did succeed in closing the buildings but they will never close the church. Jesus even said specifically when Peter confessed Jesus to be The Son of God, And Jesus answered him, “on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
We see the promise of Jesus that the church will never be closed because the church is his body on earth. His body is raised and reigning eternally in the flesh at the right hand of God. Essential to being in that church is the gathering of the saints together for a specific reason. The reason the church gathers together is for forgiveness. Jesus even says so in this passage, ” whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” The forgiving of sins is the chief mark of the church.
Whatever else the church might do, celebrating potlucks, doing social work, Valentine’s dinners, fund raisers, community events, etc. none of this is essential to being the church. All of these flow out of receiving from Christ, “I am the vine you are the branches.” “Abide in my word and you are truly my disciples.”
First and foremost being the church means being in Christ receiving his forgiveness. Peter preached about being added to the church in this way, “be baptized and you will receive the Holy Spirit…about 3000 souls were added that day.”
Many churches in our day are looking for a new way to add souls to their numbers. They are looking for the newest and greatest thing that will aid them in their quest. The problem is, is that this has never been the way the church has lived. We do not live by doubt or fear but by faith.
It’s no secret the last few generations the church has suffered terrible decline. It seems that the harder Christ’s bride tries to find a new program, a new series, a new mission statement, a new way to energize people, the harder she falls. With the explosion of church gurus, church transforming networks and programs the church has declined.
I get the calls and emails on a daily basis,
- “10 Keys to Grow Your Church”
- “Why Your Church is Not Growing”
- “How to Make Lasting Disciples”
- “How to REALLY Follow Jesus”
How to this…How to that. And of course it always comes with a price! Maybe you get a discount if you let them advertise on your church’s website. Like a roofer or construction worker who puts his sign in your yard for a discount.
I’m sorry but Jesus doesn’t need discounted advertising.
Jesus doesn’t require us buy anything for his church to “grow.” I see this in people’s personal lives too. That one new diet that will finally work. That one motivational speaker that will solve all your problems. That new car that will finally make you feel like you’ve arrived.
Pretty soon that new workout is boring. The speaker tells the same stories. The car is now last year’s model. The new house needs a new foundation. Always chasing the newest and greatest. This is the fallen nature of our flesh. The church is the same way when we forget we have all we need in Christ. The problem is that we are sinners and in all the more need of repenting and receiving Christ more.
We don’t need to find something new. We have Jesus. Jesus is raised. He comes to us in his word and sacraments. Not once have I heard a “guru” say, “You should consider faithful administration of the Lord’s Supper more regularly.”
Nor have I heard, “Encourage people to repent and remember who they are in their baptism.”
Why is that?
Because looking to these gifts do not require any payment, no contracts and no “but wait there’s more if you buy our prepackaged program now!” These gifts give you nothing to boast about, except the glory of Christ. These gifts deliver nothing that benefits the flesh and the world, “You should be like us. See our shiny new car shiny new programs and giant buildings! You too can be like us!”
The message of Christ is one that we would decrease and he would increase, John 3:30. Jesus comes to us in his flesh.
1 John 4:2, “every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh [and is still coming] is from God”
2 John 7, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming [and the continual coming] of Jesus Christ in the flesh.”
Those two passages teach us that Christ came in the flesh and is yet still presently coming to us in the flesh in his sacrament.
As of now there are still people who are prevented from receiving Christ in the flesh. It is a unique place we find ourselves. Being forced to not do what Christ tells us to do often, “do this often” gives us reason to ponder and reflect on the gifts that Christ gives us. Similarly, when a person is taken prisoner they pine for freedom all the more. Or a husband and a wife are separated for a time because one has to go on a business trip, they begin to think about each other all the more. I think the saying is, absence makes the heart grow fonder…Let that be on our mind as we are prevented from full fellowship in Christ.
It is one thing to intentionally remove yourself from the gathering of the church. It is another thing to be forcibly absent because of illness or vocational demands. Things are not as they should be, but when is that ever the case in this fallen world? So in all things we continue to repent and believe. We remember, “I am baptized!” That is how the Holy Spirit was given to you! You have been added to the church and nothing can take that away. Nothing can remove you from Christ. Not even death!
Alleluia Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed, Alleluia!
See you every day online or on our website or Facebook page! Hopefully, see you soon on Sunday…