sure that many of you have heard the presumably fictional anecdote about the
three pastors who got together one day for coffee—or was it another Lutheran
their conversation, they found that all their churches had recently experienced
bat infestation problems. “I got so mad,” said one, “I took a shotgun and fired
at them. It made holes in the ceiling, but did nothing to the bats.”
tried trapping them alive,” said the second. “Then I drove 50 miles before
releasing them, but they beat me back to the church.”
haven’t had any more problems,” said the third. “What did you do?” asked the
others, amazed. “I simply baptized and confirmed them,” he replied. “I haven’t
seen them since.”
church workers, I’m sure you’ve all had the experience of seeing people who,
after what seems like a good upbringing in the church, or even coming to faith
with a great deal of enthusiasm later in life, then drifted away and became
inactive. It’s unfortunate—tragic, really. It seems that many people think
the Church is for their convenience, or that the only thing that the church is
good for is baptisms, weddings, and funerals. You know: The old story that
many people only come to church when they’re “carried, married, and buried.”
For some, as long as the church does those three things, that’s all they want.
Beyond that, the church is just a nuisance to them.
is that God’s view of the value of church? How would God answer the question,
“Is church really that big a deal?” We turn to Colossians 3 for the answer.
Through the inspired words of the Apostle Paul, God encourages us to:
Be Thankful for the Blessings of a
we are thankful because in the congregation, we are bound together with other
members of Christ’s body. Second, within the congregation, we are built up in
the richness of Christ’s Word.
of the greatest blessings of being part of a Christian congregation is that
through it you and I are united together with other members of Christ’s body.
For many of us, that uniting started early in life, at the baptismal font.
Then and there, the love of Christ was poured into our hearts as water was
applied in the name of the Triune God.
others, that unity came when a faithful Christian friend or family member
shared the precious truth of Jesus’ love. It’s that love that unites us – the
love that Christ has showered on each one of us. It’s a love that knows no
boundaries, a love that—for all its gentleness—went to the cross, looked death
in the face, and knocked out its teeth.
a love so strong that it smashed the shackles of sin, and destroyed hell’s
furious grasp on each one of us. Each of us is now clothed in that love that
binds us, and our various gifts are used together, in service to one another.
by that love, we can live in peace with one another. A Christian
congregation provides us with that unique environment. We live in a culture
marked by strife and discord, and marred by violence. We have to function
within a secular marketplace that praises the theory that only the strong
survive and prosper, and richly rewards those who are willing to double-cross, backstab,
and scheme to get ahead.
such a world, the Church presents a radically different approach to life. The
Church is a place where people matter, where sin is forgiven, where
relationships are restored, and where peace prospers. It is a place where other
people’s needs and wants are more important than our own.
is a place where the peace of Christ rules because that peace—the peace of
forgiveness, the peace of a right relationship with God—is established and
strengthened in each of our hearts.
are tremendous blessings! The Church is a place where happiness and purpose and
fulfillment may found, regardless of the shortcomings of each of us, and the
shortcomings of others. The Church is the place where we want to be, because it
is a place that wants us, and moves us to live in line with the kind of person
Jesus Christ died to declare us to be: Righteous and holy; His dearly loved
brothers and sisters.
one of the reasons we love the time we spend with one another in
worship—whether on Sunday mornings, or special occasions such as today. Worship
is a time and a place where we as Christ’s church get to fully and freely act
like Christ’s church.
doesn’t matter whether we’re young or old, rich or poor, black or white, sick
or healthy, or somewhere in between – right here, we are united together by the
love of Christ. We come to be restored and renewed in the peace that only his
life and his love can bring to our hearts.
how is that blessing maintained and encouraged to grow? After all – human
beings by nature aren’t peaceful people. By nature, we love to create divisions
and raise disagreements. By nature, we love to get our own way, and sometimes
we care very little about what somebody else thinks or feels. By nature, we
love to think we’re right and everybody else is all wet. So, how exactly can we
hope to overcome that unity-breaking, peace-destroying attitude that lives deep
within each one of us?
answer is found in the second blessing that God offers us through this
Christian congregation. Paul points us to the answer when he says, “Let the
word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with
all wisdom” (Colossians 3:16). That’s exactly what we do as we gather to
worship. We gather around the richness of Christ’s Word that continues to build
us up as his people. That begins as Jesus leads us to confess the sinfulness
that he’s found lurking within each one of us.
we are filled with sorrow over our sins, Christ comforts us as he reveals the
treasures of his glorious gospel – the good news that his own blood cleanses us
of all our unrighteousness. That’s the reassurance Christ gives us as we hear
His Word, receive His absolution, and regularly partake of his body and blood.
We teach and admonish one another using Christ’s own word, as we meditate
deeply on its truths, and apply it to our lives–both as the Church and as
Christ’s wisdom guides us into a deeper, closer relationship with him we can’t
help but respond with thanksgiving. That’s the other part of worship—the part
that many of you are gathered together this week to discuss, to learn more
deeply about, to enrich in each of the environments in which you serve Christ’s
why Christians join together as one to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
That’s what we do as we cheerfully bring our offerings—vocal and instrumental,
as well as financial—to our gracious Savior. He has given us all that we have,
and promises to provide all that we need. With faith-filled hearts, we respond
to God’s goodness by bringing our prayers before his gracious throne, confident
that he will hear and answer us. But it goes even further than that!
Apostle Paul says clearly that our worship doesn’t end at the church door. As
we part company, our worship continues as we offer our lives, serving Christ in
whatever we say and do as an expression of our thankfulness to our gracious God
Luther understood all of the blessings and benefits that God bestows upon his
people through the Christian church. In fact, Luther’s understanding of these
truths led him to say, “Apart from the church, salvation is impossible.” Luther
wasn’t preaching that the church as an institution provides eternal life; only
God can do that. Rather, Luther was emphasizing the truth that any believer
will surely recognize the blessings of salvation God bestows through the
Christian congregation. Therefore, true believers will seek to be actively
involved where God’s true Word and Sacraments are found.
entering that time of year when many in our congregations have begun to move
into what might be politely called a “vacation mentality.” This is—and should
be—troubling to us. We know how important it is for believers to remain
connected to that ministry of Word and Sacrament. Certainly we shouldn’t
begrudge anyone the opportunity many have during the summer to take some time
to travel for sightseeing or to visit family and friends.
I’m talking about an attitude that puts our relationship with God on the shelf
for summer break – waiting to be dusted off again once the school year starts.
Perhaps even more startling than watching this summertime apathy set in is the
often-repeated excuse that people “just need a break” during the summer.
about the unfortunate trade-off that’s being made in that argument – that the
health and well-being of one’s relationship with God isn’t as important as a
paltry hour or two of extra physical rest that might be achieved by skipping
worship in the summer. Not only does the health of many congregations suffer
in the summer as their members stray into inactivity for a week, a month, or
the entire summer, but just like a person who doesn’t eat, or an athlete or
musician who doesn’t practice, soon there is physical damage and a loss of the habitus
of the Christian life for the individual, as well.
it strike you as strange that people would want to take a break from the all of
the blessings that God offers them through worship in the Christian congregation?
thankful that our God constantly calls us into his presence by pinpointing this
dangerous behavior, and nailing it to Jesus’ cross on Calvary. Rejoice that our
God patiently waits to once again reveal his incredible love for us—love that
allowed Jesus to be punished for our thanklessness. Be glad that our God always
welcomes us back into his presence. He revives our souls with the ongoing
transfusion of the righteous blood of his Son that washes away our every guilty
stain. Be thankful for the blessings that he continues to pour out on you and
His people through the congregations that you serve.
church really that big a deal? Maybe the better question to ask is this one:
How much poorer are the lives of Christians when they aren’t enriched by the
generous outpouring of God’s love, mercy, and grace through the joyous sights
and sounds of the worship life of the Church, and the gifts the Savior gives
them through that worship?
you consider that question – it’s my prayer that our God would lead us all to
serve faithfully and thankfully where He has called us. He will continue to
enrich our lives—and the lives we touch through our ministries—through the
fullness of his love, poured out on us through his Son, Jesus Christ. May God
grant it thusly: For our benefit, for the sake of Christ, and always to His