Okay, let's be real here. We've heard it all before: "Follow your heart." It's the typical cliché kind of answer that gives us a spark of hope that only lasts for a little while until reality hits us hard again. Life changes like the wind blowing in many directions. We call ourselves "hopeless wanderers" because of the ever-searching quest for meaning and truth within the barren wasteland in which we live. This world is a mess, and we live in the thick of brokenness within families and friendships, lies and deceptions, fear and anger, murder, abuse, death, arrogance...the list goes on and on. Our hearts ask, "Where can we find a sense of belonging, a place of true happiness, a place of life and contentment?"
Being a part of the church is more than just merely finding a sense of belonging—it's finding the right place in which we belong, that is, beneath the Cross, receiving Christ's blessings of forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Being a part of the church is more than just feeling happy—it's finding that happiness in Christ, where our true joy is found in the resurrection. Being a part of the church is more than just feeling alive and content—it is the very life itself in Christ as it finds contentment and peace within a world of suffering. Because of Christ we need not follow our own hearts. He gave us Himself, so that we can live according to His promises and receive those constant gifts of grace that flow from the cross to us.
Having been a Christian my entire life, I find I am still learning about being in the church every single day because of the forgiveness of sins. That is never cliché nor will it ever be, because the heart that I follow by faith is the heart that has been beating since eternity. It is real. This heart—this Gospel runs through the veins of the church, the Body of Christ, whose members live within God's grace and according to their vocations. It is the heart of salvation from which our good works flow and from which we find meaning in our lives here on earth and one day in eternity.
How does this apply to the church now? The church is as it always has been. Yes, the world changes. Yes, our sinful hearts continue to drive us in certain directions. Yes, we still suffer. Yet within the church we live and breathe the people by which God uses to give us His grace. Within the church His means of grace—in simple forms of water, bread, and wine—actually give life. Within the Church flows forgiveness of sins from the words of the people around us as we spread God's love to one another, supporting each other in the one true faith as our shared confession. The world says, "Follow your heart," but the church says, "Our hearts are already secure in Christ. He is the life-source from which our faith flows and clings to. We need not worry, for we have everything in Christ and a joy that surpasses all human understanding and desires this world could ever hope for or imagine." This is church, living and breathing Jesus Himself—better than any other person, place, or thing in this world to which our hearts might be drawn.
Bethany Woelmer is a member of St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Topeka, Kansas, and a graduate student at the University of Kansas in the Master's of Church Music program.
Created: May 9th, 2016