Tuesday, June 17, 2008

How it looks from here

One of the hot button topics in certain circles these days - The doctrine of Church & Ministry. All who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and are called to faith are Christians and members of the "Holy Christian Church - the Communion of Saints" This Church is invisible to our eye - for only the Lord can see faith in the heart. It is the sum total of all believers in Christ; saints in glory and those still remaining on the earth. These remaining in the world are part of the church militant as we battle against the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh (and sadly, at times, Christians can even war against themselves – which can sometimes become ugly! This is why we must continually cry out Kyrie Eleison!)

We also have "visible" churches inasmuch as we can see and discern what particular groups believe, teach, confess, and practice. (Hence the numerous denominations in this world)

The church exists locally wherever Christ's people gather around His Word, and Sacraments. They are sacred and holy sheep listening to the voice of the Shepherd. Thus we gather to worship, to be fed, to receive holy absolution, to be strengthened, to intercede for one another, to bear each other’s burdens only to enter back into the world to be salt and light. We use the gifts, talents, and abilities the Lord has given us in our various vocations to be witnesses of the Savior. It is a serious task as the Savior speaks quite specifically about those who loose their saltiness and whose light goes out.

What we do on Sunday is very important. Yet some may ask, are we primarily the gathering of the sacred assembly or are we to be an open door to the world? Emergent churches or congregations which offer seeker services tend to argue that we need to be focused on those who are on the outside. Traditional parishes would argue that our first priority is to those inside. "Emergents" would see long-established practices as cliquey, smug, and indifferent to those beyond our walls. "Traditionals" fear a compromise of doctrine, and a corruption of all things sacred. Sadly, these two points of view often talk past each other.

The Scriptures speak of community. Zion Friedheim congregation is a parish of some 500 souls who come from different backgrounds, ages, economic advantages and disadvantages, vocations, political affiliations, allegiances, etc. We are united only in Christ. Last names cease when we enter the church door. We enter into a sacred space only to enter back into the world.

Using ACTS 2:42 we may refer to ourselves as a harbor of hope in a dark and dangerous world. We desire to be one with respect to four specific objectives of mission and ministry.

Ø “The Apostles Doctrine” Being one in unity and faith. Basing our lives on Christ’s Holy Word as He speaks clearly to us through that Word.

Ø “Fellowship” Being one in the Lord Jesus Christ. Experiencing true joy in Christ. Living at peace with each other and enjoying one another.

Ø “The Breaking of Bread” Sacramental living. Experiencing daily the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation as Christ comes to us in and through the Sacraments.

Ø “Prayer” Upholding one another. Taking our needs burdens joys and sorrows to the throne room of grace. Being thankful as the Savior answers each petition.

We come to a worship service and then in service we witness for Him. We enter back into the world to be witnesses of the Savior. Our desire is for others to embrace and cherish our Friedheim family as they become connected to Jesus Christ. Do we always get it right? Not always. Are we perfect? Hardly! Do we stumble, fumble, flop and fall? Certainly! Yet, in spite of our many flaws the Lord uses us in various ways, often to our amazement!

Some seek revival in the church today. An Amish draft horse might be a fitting analogy. We plod along through life. And yet, after a long, long, day a few acres have been planted - and by God’s grace - we shall reap a harvest of souls. That’s how it looks, at least, from here.

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