Time For Church
You may have guessed it by now. I love the liturgical calendar. I love the structure it provides for simple, distracted minds like mine. I love watching the story of God’s plan of salvation unfold through its various times and seasons. I love the festivals and most often the colors and symbols that go along with each. During Advent and Lent, in our church, we wear beautiful purple stoles (a bonus for this Vikings fan). During Christmas and Easter seasons we wear white, which I enjoy due to its slimming quality. (I realize this is opposite of what white usually does, but for some reason it just works.) On Pentecost we have one Sunday to don the bright and vivid red. On Trinity Sunday we have one more day of thinning white, and then all of a sudden we’re wearing green. Green, green and more green. Green doesn’t look good on me. As a Vikings fan, I have been conditioned to dislike green. Yet I’m wearing it for the Next. Six. Months!!!
As a fashionista(er?) this bothers me. As a pastor I love it. Green is the perfect color for the liturgical season known as the “Time of the Church.” It’s the time that describes the explosion of God’s Kingdom on earth. Just as the barren deadness of winter gives birth to brilliant green foliage in the spring, so too the life-giving Gospel gives life and growth to the people of God through his Word and the Sacraments. It’s a beautiful season.
It’s beautiful because in it we see God’s love for the Church. The Church is a big deal in God’s eyes. Christ died for the Church to make her his bride. Perhaps because of this language we often view the Church as some ethereal, “out there” kind of concept. But the Church is a very real, practical and living entity. In fact, if you have been grafted into God’s family through faith in Christ, you are one of the Church’s constituent parts. Paul says in Colossians that Christ is the head of the body—the Church. Writing to the Corinthians, he refers to all Christians as a “body” in which Christ is head and they are its various body parts, each possessing different functions.
In this definition, a practical point emerges: If the Church consists of all believers and these believers each have a role in the “body,” there is no such thing as “Lone Ranger” Christians. It’s impossible for an amputated arm to serve any useful function for the body from which it was severed. It needs that connection to the head and torso to work. In the same way, to function as they are called, Christians need to be connected not just to the Head but also to one another. This is why the writer of Hebrews insists that his readers (i.e. us) not forsake meeting together, as even some in that day were in the habit of doing. A connection to a local congregation is vital for members of the Church. It’s how God designed us to work.
I’ve often heard individuals make the argument that they don’t need to go to church to worship God. In one sense this is true. A person can worship God wherever they are. I’ve also heard that a person needn’t be connected to a local congregation to serve God. In a sense, this is also true. A Christian’s service to God often takes place through ordinary means outside of the meeting of the local congregation. When, for instance, parents serve their children, God is working through them, and they are serving Christ who is hidden in their children. This is true of all of the seemingly ordinary and mundane callings we have in life, whether it be in our families, jobs, or communities. All of it is service to God. Gene Veith in his book, God At Work, does a beautiful job of explaining this concept.
In this, however, one question remains to be answered. How are we fueled to worship and serve God rightly? To view it from another angle, if Christianity was only about our worship of God or work for him, wouldn’t it be a religion of law? Wouldn’t that make our standing before God about our worship or what we are doing for him? This isn’t what Christianity is. The Church was built not by our sweat, but by Christ’s body and blood, given and shed for us on a cross. It is founded upon God’s Word, not our works. In his book The Fire And The Staff, Klemet Preus explains that this is precisely why we call our Sunday morning gatherings “Divine Service.” Primarily, we come not to worship and serve God, although this, of course, happens. First and foremost, we come together as a body to be served by God through his Word and the Sacraments. Through his service to us, we receive fresh forgiveness and spiritual food to fuel our work for him in the rest of life. We as the body of Christ need this connection to our spiritual Head more than our physical bodies need air to work properly. Sadly, too many Christians misunderstand this and many far less important activities consume this opportunity to be served by God.
During this “Time of the Church,” I encourage you to review your participation in the the congregation. Come to be served by God. This is how God makes the dead foliage of sinful hearts sprout into brilliant, green, spiritual life.