Devotional Thought of the Day:
41 Many more Samaritans put their faith in Jesus because of what they heard him say. 42 They told the woman, “We no longer have faith in Jesus just because of what you told us. We have heard him ourselves, and we are certain that he is the Savior of the world!” John 4:41–42 (CEV) —
1. Liturgy is for all. It must be “catholic”, i.e., communicable to all the faithful without distinction of place, origin and education. Thus it must be “simple”. But that is not the same as being cheap. There is a banal simplism, and there is the simplicity which is the expression of maturity. It is this second, true simplicity which applies in the Church
I often hear church leaders talking about how effective a church is, and I hear some trying to measure churches to determine whether this church is viable, whether it is still worth the “investment” of talent and treasure made in it over the years.
A lot of these studies are based on numerical analysis – has the church grown, have their offerings been stable, what kind of turnover has occurred among staff and other leadership. Consultants will come in and do surveys for larger churches and denominations. They, in turn, pass this information on to smaller churches, which but into the theories and lose morale, and eventually close. (That larger churches often benefit statistically from this is another story)
After all, numbers are important, and statistics tell a story that might be hard to refute without knowing the true story of the faithful. In fact, we often do not hear the stories, because the statistics seem so conclusive.
No one would have believed that a church community would have been viable in a remote Samaritan Village. Never mind that the person that got the ball rolling would have been a woman with a past. No one except Jesus.
But look at the statement they make to her! They had moved from believing in God because she had told them, to believe in God because they had experienced Him. What an amazing statement this is! One that every pastor should desire to hear! To know our people are experiencing the incredible, immeasurable love of Christ – not just hearing about it second hand!
I am not saying they go past needing the guidance of spiritual shepherds and prophets, that is part of our role, but they resonate with the teachings of Christ – they realize that God is speaking to them, especially during sacramental times, or when God is silent. Or they recognize that it is the Holy Spirit convicting them of sin, and comforting them as the Spirit cleanses and heals them.
This level of maturity makes a huge difference in a church. And it will see the church do things that go beyond logic, as they serve those around them. People will care, (and struggle when care is difficult) they will give beyond what is reasonable, they will be there when no one else would.
So how does a pastor do this? I think Pope Benedict wrote about it well. To present the gospel in a simple yet mature way. To not cheapen the masses, worship services, and Bible Studies that we give. Rather – we need to make them communicate the incredible love that God has for His people – so that they know it – so that they experience it, so that worship is full of the joy that comes, even in the midst of trauma and lament.
The more they know, the more they experience, the more mature they get, the more they can echo what the lady was told – “we are certain that He is the Savior of the World.
Therefore… out savior.
If our people know this, then we’ve done our job… and the work of the Holy Spirit through us has been effective.
Let us rejoice when we see God working hits way through our churches. And may e find a way to support it, whether it is 25 people working together in Southgate or 150 in Cerritos, or 5000 in some other place.
Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 122.