Thursday, March 13, 2014

I Love My Church Part 3

This is based on an article from Hal Seed (accessed here on February 13, 2014).

Hal Seed writes, “A quick read of the book of Acts or the letters in Revelation proves that Jesus loves his church. He died for it, prays for it, lives for it and is going to return for it.
[But] let’s be honest: It’s not easy to love the church. It’s easy to love Jesus. Loving His bride is another story. Churches are filled with frail and fault-riddled people. Every church has a unique personality. All are loved by Jesus, but not all are loved in equal measure by each of His people.”

I love my church. And by “church” I mean “the one holy Christian and apostolic church,” “The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod,” the four churches that I have served as a pastor (Christ Lutheran, White Cloud, MI, St. John Lutheran, Mayville, WI, Redeemer Lutheran, Ontario, CA, and St. Matthew Lutheran, Hawthorn Woods, IL), and the churches of which I was a member before I become a pastor (St. Paul, Round Lake, IL, Good Shepherd, Lake Villa, IL, Messiah, St. Louis, MO, and St. John, Arnold, MO).
I agree, loving Jesus is so much easier than loving His bride, the Church. But just like the love of a spouse in marriage, love of the church is more a choice than a feeling.

Based on Hall Seed’s ten reasons that he loves his church, I have ten reasons that I choose to love Jesus’ bride, the Church. They are in no particular order – this is not a ranked list. This week, reason number three:

3. She Is Responsive

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. 2 Corinthians 8:1-7 (ESV)

In October of 2013, severe thunderstorms unleashed tornadoes that tore through several communities in Central Illinois and Indiana. Two of the hardest hit communities were the towns of New Minden and Washington, Illinois.

In the weeks following the storms, FEMA and the Red Cross provided relief and other help to the people of these communities. The Governor of Illinois and other government officials also visited.

But by Thanksgiving 2013, these towns were out of the news and all but forgotten.

All but forgotten except by caring and loving people of the Christian churches in the area (and beyond) as well as other caring people of differing faiths.

One of those churches is St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Hawthorn Woods, Illinois (where I serve as Assistant Pastor). 160 miles north of Washington, Illinois, we gathered cold-weather clothes and food items for the people who lost entire homes. That would get them through Thanksgiving and Christmas and into the New Year.

What they – and we – didn’t count on was the third snowiest winter in Illinois history. There has been snow on the ground since December and temperatures didn’t reach freezing until late February. This also hampered clean-up and re-building efforts.

But the Church didn’t let that stop them. St. Matthew – as well as many other congregations of the Church – dedicated themselves to sticking with the relief and rebuilding help “for the long haul.”

This weekend a group of people from St. Matthew joined Lutheran Church Charities in helping with clean up. We are also planning the rebuild process with them.

Lutheran Church Charities also has provided Comfort Dogs for the people of New Minden and Washington. A simple visit from a trained comfort dog helps hurting people and provides an opportunity for the dog’s “handler” to pray and share the comforting Gospel.

This is how the Church responds. She has been doing this from the very first day of the Christian Church (Pentecost – the 50th day after the resurrection of Jesus Christ).

Wherever there are hurting people in need, the Church is responsive to that need. And in responding to their need

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