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A Measure of Congregational and Christian Maturity: The Sacrifice of Preference

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:

But Melchizedek, who was not a descendant of Levi, collected a tenth from Abraham. And Melchizedek placed a blessing upon Abraham, the one who had already received the promises of God. 7 And without question, the person who has the power to give a blessing is greater than the one who is blessed.(Heb 7:6–7)  NLT

Her purpose has been to adapt the Gospel to the grasp of all as well as to the needs of the learned, insofar as such was appropriate. Indeed, this accommodated preaching of the revealed word ought to remain the law of all evangelization. For thus the ability to express Christ’s message in its own way is developed in each nation, and at the same time there is fostered a living exchange between the Church and the diverse cultures of people.

I have an older member of my congregation; she is tone who loves a traditional liturgy with organ accompaniment going full throttle.  She said to me one day, “Pastor, I prefer the older liturgy, but I hear people singing the new liturgy, and I see where it is a blessing to others.  Keep doing it.”    I have another member, who learned the Lord’s prayer from a modern translation, without the hallow ‘d’s and Thy’s.  But hearing the passion in the voice of the older folk who say it, he wants to hear them say it, their way, and not steal their comfort by forcing them to become modern.

I hold them out to you, dear reader, as an example of Christian maturity.

Why?  Because they understand that being blessed by their preferences being satisfied is not as important as helping others know Christ Jesus, to experience His love and His mercy.

As the writer of Hebrews explains it, it is Christlike, it is the more mature that blesses, and what greater blessing is there that you can give someone, that to have the gospel communicate to them in a way they “get.”

That’s what I like about the statement from Vatican II.  It recognizes the purpose of the church to make sure that can grasp the gospel.   To express Christ’s message in a way that is different, not in core message, but in view of the context it is delivered to, knowing the age, the culture, the various ethnic and language idiosyncrasies.  Let me give you an example.  The French spoken in Quebec is different than the French of Belgium, is different from the French spoken in Vietnam.   Some is the same, but to communicate to the heart of the people, you phrase some things differently.  Likewise, I would preach a sermon on the same passage differently if I was preaching it at a Harvard Chapel, or at a rescue mission.  As Robert Schuller used to talk about, we have to study our milieu as much as the passage we preach.

A mature church adapts its message to the people.  This is not sugar coating it, but understanding it is an act of love to bless others with a message it can grasp. That means working hard, diligently preparing messages and music, and helping others see where they too can learn to sacrifice.

This is the church; this is growing in awareness of God’s desire. This is growing in our ability to depend on God, to love, to be transformed into the image of Christ.  It is proof of His work in us….

So think – and bless God fo the ability to communicate His love, even to those who are different!

Catholic Church. (2011). Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

The Blessing of the Church Community.

Devotional thought of the Day:

10:19 We have, then, my friends, complete freedom to go into the Most Holy Place by means of the death of Jesus. 20 He opened for us a new way, a living way, through the curtain—that is, through his own body. 21 We have a great priest in charge of the house of God. 22 So let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, with hearts that have been purified from a guilty conscience and with bodies washed with clean water. 23 Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise. 24 Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. 25 Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer.
Hebrews 10:19-25 (TEV)

It is amazing to be the recipient of the concern and encouragement that comes from what our creeds, the traditional belief statements of the Church call the “communion of saints.”

Yesterday, I saw this in action – as some of our members were dealing with incredible challenges, and the service seemed to emphasize  our need to depend on God.  Even as I was preaching, the pains were evident, and I was praying for them, yet the wear and tear must have been obvious on me, for I too was the recipient of prayers and encouragement, and similar words pointing me to the Lord who endured the cross, for us.  Broken and battered by life, struggling with recent losses, the Body broken for us, the Blood shed for our forgiveness and healing, was given, and the body of Christ that are the church, was the church.  ANd sincere hearts, and those who trust in Him, were brought together in Him.

The thing that is amazing about this community, this Body of Christ, is how it transcends time and distance.  Former members, kids who had grown up in our congregation were there, and welcomed back.  The pastor that served me and lots of other youth was there, someone I haven’t seen in 25 years, and he too, in songs blessed us with that same message of God’s work in our lives, His being a refuge for His people. He gave a concert last night, and people from my youth were there, as well as from the church were I served as an intern – connections were made between us all.   And in each case, their presence re-inforced the concept that this is one faith, one church, and one Lord of all!

I used to think that such community was the source of our strength, there sociologically, a team bound together under pressure, creates a esprit de corps that is nearly palpable.  But with the church, it is far more, far deeper, for the strength is not in any individual and multiplied, nor is it the strength of the combined people.  It is, instead, found in the Lord of the Church, the One who brings us together, the One who can be always trusted to keep His promises.

Instead of the usual invitation to discuss this, today I would ask that you tell your stories, of how God has ministered to you, even as He has ministered through you.  Such would be a blessing to all who read this.

Thanks

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