Why Does the Church Remain?
Simply put, because Jesus lives, because Jesus gives His Spirit in His Word.
We are more than half way through the season of Pentecost, the “time of the Church” in the Christian year. The Gospels this year are all from Matthew: the confession of Peter; the cost of discipleship; the need to forgive one another as Christ has forgiven us; the last will be first and the first last; the parable of the vineyard, and so forth. Sunday after Sunday the Word of God brings Christ to us, Christ and all He does for us.
For the Lord Jesus Christ, in His Word, is the source of the Church’s life – nothing more, nothing less.
Yet there are times when the Holy Christian Church looks neither holy, nor Christian, nor even like a church. We’ve all experienced this disappointment when people have failed us, or when we have failed others in the church.
Even as the Church proclaims repentance, the Church herself is ever called to repentance. Even as the Church seeks to tell the story of Christ, she is called to hear again the voice of her Master, “Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden,” Jesus says, “and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28).
The Church’s holiness comes from the fact that Christ is holy and daily washes His Church in the water of baptism, daily forgiving and restoring her to Himself. The Church is Christian because Christ puts His name on her, and then calls her to follow Him. She is Church because He has called her His own.
Christ gives His Spirit in His Word daily to call the Church, and the world through the Church, to repentance and faith. This is why the Church remains, and ever shall remain.
Much to the surprise of those in every age who thought the Church would succumb to the prevailing “wisdom” of the day, the Church lives and thrives because Jesus lives to keep His promise, in response to Peter’s confession: “On this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
Our task, then, our calling is to point people to this life that is really Life, to the living Lord Jesus. He walks among His churches, the Book of Revelation says, assuring us, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:17-18).
This Sunday, when you go to church, take a new look at what is going on. Look past anything that annoys you about your pastor or the people and hear the Word of God afresh as it is: the Word of Jesus directly to you. Remember that Jesus gives His Body and Blood for you. Remember that He put His name on you in your Baptism. He is alive to give you life. Go then with His Life into your daily life. Go and bring to others this life that is the only real Life.
The Church remains because Jesus lives and, in Him, so do you!
+Herbert C. Mueller
LCMS First Vice-President
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