Posts tagged Why?

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.

What then?

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

God’s Final Answer When We Ask: Why?

We believe that God is both almighty and that He is good.  He created all things and we look to Him for every blessing.  It all comes from God and God alone.  That’s what we confess in the Apostles Creed when we say, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”

Well, if God is both all powerful and completely good, goes the atheist’s objection, why is the world He created full of suffering?  Yes, we know that suffering comes from our sinful condition and is part of this fallen world, but our answer needs to say more.  Could not God have created a world in which evil and suffering were impossible?

Actually, speculating as to what God might have done, or what kind of universe He might have created, is just not fruitful.  The universe God did create is the only one we know.

In the movie Bruce Almighty, if I remember correctly, God “allows” a man named Bruce to have all power.  For a while Bruce enjoys walking on water, doing miracles, etc.  But then the prayers start pouring in (all by email!).  At first, Bruce answers them all individually, but after a while he gets tired and just starts answering them all with “yes.”  As a result, the world quickly begins to break down in chaos (as I remember the movie).  When the laws of physics start collapsing, God intervenes and takes back control – thankfully!

Why is there suffering?  God is not the cause of evil, but here’s the key.  The world is full of conflicting wants, needs and demands, all by people who are sinfully turned in on themselves.  It’s a condition from which we cannot free ourselves. 

When we ask God, why am I suffering? we are usually protesting that we don’t deserve the treatment we think we are receiving.  We don’t like to admit that we are part of the problem and that the evil we deplore runs right through each of us. Ah, there’s the rub.  Evil is not just out there, it’s in here, in my heart and yours.  That’s what we have to confess when we are honest with God.

But what does God do about evil and suffering?  He comes.  He does not give a three part, logical, reasoned out answer.  God comes Himself.  That’s what we believe when we confess with St. Paul, “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).  There is no greater revelation of God in our suffering world than this: God Himself up there in Christ hanging dead on the cross.

There God in Jesus went to the bottom of all that ails us, all the sin that kills us.  It killed Him, too, but not for long.  He lived again, rising from the dead in wonderful, amazing victory.  God’s only answer to our question why? is the death and resurrection of Jesus.

So then, also for us, the way to life is through death and resurrection.  When we believers in Jesus suffer, we can remember that the pain is only a reminder that one day we will turn in this present mortal body, corrupted by sin as it is, and receive from the Lord Jesus a brand new body.  “This perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality … thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:53, 57).

And when the Spirit of God working through God’s Law reveals to us the depths of our sin, He calls us to repent, that is, to be honest with God about our condition and to die to sin so that God may forgive us and raise us to life.  This daily dying begins with our Baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection, continues life-long with confession and forgiveness, until we die for the last time and Jesus raises us to life forever (see Romans 6:1-11).

Apart from the cross of Christ, suffering is an unrelenting evil, but in the hand of God, and remembering the cross of Jesus, can we see our suffering as a tool in God’s hand to strip you and me of the things that don’t matter?  So that we concentrate all the more on what He has done for us?  On what He has in store for our future?  On the things that DO matter?  “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).

Oh, I know we still cry out.  It still hurts.  The pain and grief, both physical and emotional, can seem unbearable at times.  But when we cry out, we are crying to the One who knows our condition.  “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).  We look to Him because He will give us His victory, whether now or later.

There’s my answer, and I’m sticking to it!  I’m going to hold onto His Word, receive His body and blood, remember His death and resurrection, and hear His promise, “Because I live, you will live also” (John 14:19).

This is the greatest thing our almighty creating Father ever did: to send, in eternal love, His one and only Son for us.  JESUS is God’s final answer for us.  In Him God’s Spirit now calls those who follow Him to reach out in mercy for all who are suffering. This mercy grows from Jesus giving us a life together through His body and blood given and shed for us.  Alive in His name now and forever, we bear witness to all He has done for us by His suffering, death and resurrection.

Witness, mercy, life together – all from God’s final answer, in Jesus!

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