"Real" Church

    June 07, 2020 | Stories

    This note is an embodiment of our sermon for the weekend. We pray that this will strengthen your faith and encourage you to good works where you live. God is good and we are grateful for our shared commitment to the Christian faith together. 

     

    A Reading from John 10:22-30

    It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication. He was in the Temple, walking through the section known as Solomon’s Colonnade. The people surrounded him and asked, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” 

    Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name. But you don’t believe me because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” 

     

    Devotion: 

    Over the next six weeks, Concordia will be considering what is real in Christianity. Too often in the Christian faith, God's people are tempted to pit one act of devotion or expression of spirituality against the other. However, the enduring truth and reality for Christianity is this, that God rose Jesus bodily from the grave and the Holy Spirit which lives inside of Him also lives inside of you. This is real for God's people. It is not vain words, but rather deep truth and hope because when Jesus lives, we too shall live. 

    This truth was lived out by the first disciples when they hid behind locked doors. Even though they could not gather in the synagogues or out in the public square, they still had faith in our Savior. They were the church. And they lived their faith by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. By speaking with other Christians and praying to God. This private gathering was an embodiment of the church and truly was real. 

    Going forward a few hundred years, we remember from history how Christians under persecution in the early church hid in caves and underground. And still they were the real church. And throughout history this has been countless examples of Christians hiding and flourishing and through it all the real truth and faith of Jesus' bodily resurrection which lived inside of all of them.

    And this same reality is for you today. Even though we may not gather and live in the same way we could before we believe that faith is still present inside of you. And this faith pulls us into God's greater story and makes us the church. Even as the simple children’s song reminds us, the church is not a resting place, the church is not a steeple, the church is the people. The faith which lives inside of you means that you have been intertwined into the death and resurrection of Jesus regardless if you present for in-person worship at the moment or not. Why? because our salvation and participation does not rest on what we do, but rather on what Jesus does for us.

    Martin Luther encountered a similar concern during his life. He was living in a time when a group of Christians challenged him on what the church is. Even accusing him of possibly not belonging to the church. In response to this Luther said, "I thank God that a seven-year-old child knows what the church is. It is sheep who hear the voice of their shepherd." Luther here is echoing the words of Jesus from our reading above. It is a reading that Luther used, and countless Christians have used throughout the centuries. The church is people who hear the voice of their shepherd. 

    But in our world today there are many competing voices that try to pull us away from the voice of Jesus. The world tries to whisper in our ears that there is no hope for someone like us. Satan tries to whisper in our ears that we need to eat, drink, and watch that inappropriate show on television. Our own sinful desire whispers in our ears that we know everything and can live a fine life apart from Jesus. 

    But In the midst of this sinful whispering, the voice of Jesus loudly proclaims that we are good enough because of His work. The voice of Jesus loudly proclaims that we should stay away from sinful desires of the flesh. The voice of Jesus proclaims that life is only found in Him and apart from Him there is nothing.  

    Jesus tells this message to His disciples thousands of years ago. He knows that those disciples will need it on the road ahead when He is put to death on cross and they live on this side of glory without Him in the same way. And the words of Jesus are also recorded for us today. He tells us that those who follow Him listen to His voice. This message is recorded for the disciples who would also come thousands of years later. It is an encouragement for us today. Why? Because those who hear the voice of Jesus are the church. And you are that church. This the reality that is presented before us today, because those who hear the words of Jesus have faith and are in the church.  

    So this week, I encourage you to continually grow in this truth. To suppress all of the other sinful voices that you may hear. The lies and whispers that the world, Satan, and our own sinful desires try to create. And rather, to focus more intently on the voice of Jesus. The one who calls us from death to life. So read, pray, and give thanks for this truth. The truth that you are called into relationship with our Heavenly Father. You are loved by Jesus and you are loved by this church family. 

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