Rev. Randy Sturzenbecher
If you're a fan of the movie The Princess Bride you might be familiar with the dialog between Vizzini and Inigo Montoya. Vizzini loved to use the interjection, "Inconceivable!" After hearing it a few times, Inigo responded to Vizzini, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
In our autonomous, personalized, find-what-fits-you culture, the word "church" is used many ways. I think Inigo might have found himself questioning that as well.
Our modern day understanding of church is driven by our consumer driven society. We have been trained-when we need something-to shop for the best value, the best price, the best product that meets what we need. Because of this mentality, when our perceived need is met, or we are dissatisfied with the service we have received, we move on.
When we talk about church in this manner churches are relegated to competing establishments, vying for a market share. They, in turn, create and recreate themselves to stay on the cutting edge in order to compete with everything else for a market share of your time and resources.
However, the church is not a manmade institution, it is Christ's. He created it. He shed His holy and precious blood to cleanse it and make it His pure bride. He sustains it through His gifts of Word and Sacrament. He cares for it and calls you into it. The church is not a place where we go to find what we want, but where Christ gives us what He wants for us and what He knows we need. The church is the place where we gather as a community-His community. Whether we're baby boomers, gen xers, millennials, singles, middle school, high school and college, widowed, married with children, or married without, we all gather into a community that desperately needs that which only Christ can give. We need the forgiveness that Jesus won for us on the cross. We need hope. We need peace. We need to know that our mistakes and sins can be and are forgiven by the blood of Christ shed on the cross. We need to be needed and wanted unconditionally. We need to find truth and guidance and understand our identity. We need the strength to live in His Truth.
The world around us accepts us when we fit the mold it demands. The church accepts us as we are: broken, discouraged, scared, needing guidance, discouraged, damaged and disillusioned. Our brokenness is the very reason Jesus died on the cross. Only the sinless Lamb of God could pay the price demanded by sin. Sin demands death. Sin brings destruction; it tears us down and pulls us away from all that is good. Sin deceives us into thinking our brokenness is actually healthy. Our sin is why Jesus died on the cross. He wants to restore us and make us new.
In His church, Christ Jesus does not take-He gives. He gives us complete and total forgiveness and does not judge you by your past. Christ Jesus gives us a community. In the waters of Holy Baptism we become part of the community of saints redeemed, washed and forgiven by the blood of Jesus shed on the cross. Christ Jesus gives us a family. This family gathers together in worship to receive the gifts that our loving Father gives. This family, our church family, cares for each other, prays for each other and carries one another's burdens. We eat together at the feast prepared by Jesus, His very true Body and Blood in with and under the bread and wine, for us, for our strength and forgiveness. Christ gives us an identity that is not shaped or molded by the world but shaped by Jesus as He covers us in His holiness.
In Christ's church we are a part of something much greater than ourselves; we are a part of Christ and His gifts He so willingly gives. His love, forgiveness, and promises for us are evident in every worship service.
And that, dear children, is the true meaning of "church." It's a glorious, inconceivable gift from our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Rev. Randy R Sturzenbecher is the pastor at Divine Shepherd Lutheran Church in Black Hawk, South Dakota.
Created: December 4th, 2015