Be the Church

“It is symptomatic that in the Western world where the Church is 2000 years old, the mass of people still pass Christianity by. Why? Because the visible presence of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit in Christians as a whole, apart from a few individuals, is no longer present.”~~Brennan Manning

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Good morning. It is Friday, September 5, 2014! Only 16 more days until Autumn!

Today is Bring Your Manners To Work Day. Yes, please do. Thank you.

Christi continues to be very happy at her new job. It occurred to me yesterday that, if she had not suffered through the Minetree debacle, she would probably not have gotten this opportunity. Who can understand the mind and the workings of God?

As of last night’s 10-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners, the Texas Rangers are the first team in MLB this season to be eliminated from any playoff chance at all. With 22 games left in the season, they only need to win 5 in order to keep from at least tying their worst record in the Texas Rangers’ history, which was 57-105. I believe that was in 1973, the second year they were here. I’m not sure they will make it.

As far as I know, we don’t have anything planned for this weekend, other than our normal church activities on Saturday evening.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

(From The Divine Hours)

Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts!
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!

Psalm 65:4
But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Matthew 9:12-13
But you, O GOD my Lord, deal on my behalf for your name’s sake; because your steadfast love is good, deliver me!
For I am poor and needy, and my heart is stricken within me.
I am gone like a shadow at evening; I am shaken off like a locust.
My knees are weak through fasting; my body has become gaunt, with no fat.
Help me, O LORD my God! Save me according to your steadfast love!

Psalm 109:21-24, 26

Today’s Gospel Reading

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”
Matthew 5:38-42

In our modern culture, where everyone is obsessed with their rights, this is an extremely unpopular teaching. Jesus turns the entire concept of equal retaliation totally upside down. The Old Testament Law allowed for restitution, but Jesus has come along and instructed his disciples to not seek out restitution for wrongs. He even carries it further in verse 42 when he tells them to give to whoever begs and do not refuse him who would borrow. These are very radical concepts. What kind of impact would they have on our world if we would obey them?

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Passing Us By.”

It is brief and to the point, and a very harsh word to today’s Church.

“It is symptomatic that in the Western world where the Church is 2000 years old, the mass of people still pass Christianity by. Why? Because the visible presence of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit in Christians as a whole, apart from a few individuals, is no longer present.”

Think hard about that statement before you get all self-righteous about it. It hurts me to read it, because I can see that it is true. Is the presence of Jesus Christ in me visible every day? Every minute? I fear it is not. No, I KNOW it is not! I am not delusional enough to think that it is, because I know that there are many times during every day that I fail to exhibit the characteristics of the living God in my life. I get angry over stupid things, trivial things. I do not display grace to people. I have impure thoughts (which, thankfully, no one else can see).

The leadership team (of which I am part) at our church was recently asked to compile a list of the differences between “going to church” and “being the Church.” At first I thought this was silly. Then I started making my list. Here’s what I came up with:

1. You can go to church without having a relationship with Jesus Christ. To be the Church requires being a Christ follower.
2. Going to church requires little to no risk/effort. Being the Church frequently involves risk and ALWAYS involves effort.
3. You can go to church without loving anyone. To truly be the Church, you must love everyone. John 13:34; 1 John 4:7-8
4. You can go to church without it costing you anything. To be the Church, it could cost you everything. Luke 14:33
5. You can go to church without being baptized. Baptism is required to be the Church.
6. You can go to church without caring about the person sitting next to you. If you are truly part of the Church, you must care for everyone around you. Matthew 25:31-40
7. You can go to church and never pray a bit. To be the Church requires constant prayer. 1 Thessalonians 5:17
8. “Going to church” requires a building. The Church needs no building to exist.
9. You can go to church without caring about your sin. To be the church, you must repent and struggle against sin.
10. “Going to church” is something you do. Being the Church is something you are.

What does this have to do with Brennan’s quote? Everything, I believe. There are thousands upon thousands of people who are just “going to church.” They believe they are “Christians” because they “go to church.” To borrow a common cliche, going to church doesn’t make one a Christian any more than being in a garage makes one an automobile. In order to “be the Church,” one must truly be a Christ follower and do the things he commands. His commands, while simple in nature, are not so simple to follow. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ And, A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Everything I have listed above pretty much falls into those three commands.

Church, let’s get moving. It’s time to show Christ to the world.

What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.
1 Corinthians 14:26

Father, I am shamed by brother Brennan’s words. I am shamed by my seeming inability to show Christ to my world. There are times, as you know, that I have doubted my belief; doubted my salvation. Oddly enough, this is not one of them. I do not doubt that you, through the blood of Christ have chosen me and sanctified (or are, at least, in the process of sanctifying) me. But I am still broken, oh, so broken. I pray that your Spirit will be stronger in me, that I might display the visible presence of Jesus Christ. Let me be one of those “few individuals,” Lord! Let there be more than just a few individuals! Let the Church arise and be the Church, Father! Let us show your grace and mercy to a lost and suffering world, especially to those parts of the world that are not even aware of their lostness. Let us obey the commands of our Savior and love you with all our being, love our neighbor as ourselves, and love each other the way Christ has loved us! Let us dispense with the nonsense of demanding our rights before others, and thereby shaming Jesus. Let us dispense with the idolatry of national pride and security! Let us throw down the banners of politics that we have picked up and BE THE CHURCH!

I pray for this day. I pray for safe travel to and from work. May our work day be great and productive. May we show Christ to our work associates, whether verbally or simply in our actions. I pray for Stephanie today, that she might feel better, and that she would know your great love for her.

Help us to be the Church.

Tough words today. May we take them to heart and make a change in our world.

Grace and peace, friends.

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