Hello Church Devotion Aug 3, 2013
C is for "Church"
The photo above shows 1960 building and site of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church. Many of our members will be surprised to see how empty the lot is around the building. In the "ABC's of Christianity" we are to our third letter. C is for Church.
One would think that a simple word such as "Church" would be easy to define and understand. Yet, there are many misunderstandings about what "Church" is and what "Church" is about. Is "Church" a building? a place to worship? Is "Church" a program or worship service? What is "Church" actually according to the Bible?
The etymology of the English word "Church" comes to us via the Middle Ages English word "Chirche", which is itself from the Old English word "Cirice". It is said that "Cirice" came from the first word in the old Greek phrase kuriake oikia which meant "the Lord's House".
Yet the word that the Bible uses most frequently and is translated as "Church" isn't from "House of the Lord". The word that the Greek New Testament uses is one called "Ekklesia". It is the root for our English word "Ecclesiastic" which means "Clergy or Minister". So does that mean that "Church" is only for the "Clergy"? No way!
According to the Greek New Testament word dictionary, the meaning of "Ekklesia", "Church" is a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place. It is also an assembly of the people convened at the public place of the council for the purpose of deliberating.It has a focus also for those gatherings of Christians assembled for worship. It even has a shading of meaning that this "Ekklesia" is in fact the whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth and also includes the assembly of faithful Christians already dead and received into heaven.
Isn't it great! "Church" is not a building. It isn't a program or a worship service. It is in fact the gathering of God's people past and present.
Church is not something we do, but rather something we have been called into being. Church is you and me. We are the gathered people of God no matter where we find ourselves.
Sometimes we get confused and mistake the Church building in this world for the incredible fellowship and comfort found in knowing the assembly and gathering of all God's people.
God by sending His Son, Jesus, to the cross of Calvary reclaimed all the lost and broken people of the world. God moves them from the death of sinfulness to the joy of resurrection and creation. God also doesn't want us to be alone, so He puts us in the family of fellow believers. People who have our backs when times get tough. People who pray and encourage one another. God places us in His holy assembly so that we are never alone.
Let me make a point about the above caption... If we think we have to go somewhere in order to worship God, then we are making a mistake. God is accessible to all believers in Jesus from where ever we seek Him. More importantly, God has made us a part of a communion of saints, a fellowship divine, a holy people, so why would we not want to gather and assemble to worship Him and receive His gifts? Certainly we should assemble weekly or even more frequently to hear His word and receive His Supper.
We are part of something much bigger than ourselves. We are a part of something larger than what we can see with our limited human eyesight. God has placed us in an organic, living, grouping of His people.
As Martin Luther said in his explanation to the Third article of the Apostles' Creed: "I believe that I cannot come to my Lord Jesus Christ by my own intelligence or power, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts and made me holy and kept in the true faith, just as He calls, gathers together, enlivens and makes holy the whole Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus in the one, true faith. In this Church He generously forgives each day every sin committed by me and by every believer. On the last day, He will raise me and all the dead from the grave. He will give eternal life to me and to all who believe in Christ. Yes, this is most certainly true.
Because of God's action and power, by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, we are the people and gathering of God. We are the "Church". We don't seek to go find "Church". For we are already Church. What we are has already been given and done for us by the amazing action of God.
When we gather together as God's people, our desire is to worship and praise the living God. Where two or more gather, God is in their midst. In other words, we are being "Church" and that is what God has made us.
Herman Sasse, a pastor theologian in Australia once said: "We are most "Church" when we are at table with each other and the Lord." In other words, we are revealing and showing what "Church" is about in our lives most clearly when we are sharing together, gathered together, receiving together the very body and blood of our Savior.
May you and I "Be Church" to the world around us and learn to enjoy the wonderful gift that fellow brothers and sisters in Christ really are for our earthly pilgrimage.
1. Is the Church a building?
2. How did we get to be "Church"?
3. What are the ramifications for us when we put into practice the understanding that we are all the "Church"?
4. How can we do better in helping and encouraging our fellow believers?
5. Who comprises the "Church" in it's biblical understanding?
Prayer: Almighty God, you continue to surprise and delight me. You have made plans for me that I never quite knew before. Today, I remember that You have made me into a gathering of Your holy people. I am a part of the billions of believers who continue each day and night praise Your holy name. Even when the world tries to make me think that I am alone and have to do it all myself, I find myself sheltered, gathered, and cared for by the living embrace of my brothers and sisters in Christ. What a gift is being a part of such a wondrous party of believers can be. Help me to fully appreciate this gift and for me to be a gift to others in the faith as well. I thank you for my Lord, Jesus, His sacrifice and resurrection that opened the door to being Church for me. In His name I pray. Amen.