Thursday, March 20, 2014

I Love My Church - Part 4

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 four:

4. She is Caring.

Two separate incidents happened to me this past week that touched my heart in a very special way.
The first was that Virginia died. She was a woman in her 90’s. She suffered from acute Alzheimer’s and lived in a care facility for many years. I would visit her just about every other month (while my colleague would do the same, just not the same month). She didn’t know who I was, didn’t know my name or nearly anything about me.

But she did know that I am a pastor. I would wear my “pastors clothes” and when I walked into her room, her eyes would light up and smile would appear on her face. I would read to her from the Bible and we would pray together.

Virginia was - is – a disciple of Jesus strong in the faith. She and Harold were married in the early 1940’s and lived their entire marriage sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ through their lives. Harold has to begin what I can only imagine to be a very difficult task – living his Christian life without Virginia by his side.

I saw Harold last night at dinner. He was still upbeat, smiling, and exuding the joy of a life lived by and for Jesus Christ. His love for his wife is no less diminished this week and never will be, even though it is now different.

The second incident was a phone call I received during lunch. My good and dear friends Jim and Susie called me to wish me a belated happy birthday. I met Jim and Susie 8 years ago when I served as their pastor in Southern California. Jim was retired from the local police department and devoted almost all of his time to our church’s Senior Adult Ministry. We played cards together. We met each week for breakfast and Bible study. I know they prayed for me and my family daily. They are such dear friends to my wife and I. 

During our conversation Jim told me that he was being inducted into his high school’s Hall of Fame for football. His football time went undefeated for three seasons. This was 60 years ago in Northern Michigan. But even though so many decades had passed, I could still hear the joy in his voice as he told me their plans to travel back to Michigan this September.

These two incidents are just two of many evidences of how the Christian Church is “caring.” Harold and Virginia caring for each other and for their fellow Christians and all the people they met through the years. Jim and Susie caring for each other, for me and my family, and the people of their congregation and all those that they met through the years.

When we let Jesus and His love for us have his way with us, this is usually the result: that we will care for others in the same or similar ways. This is one of the “marks” of the Church, as Jesus said in the Gospel of John:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

Next week, we’ll look at another reason to love the Church – her diversity.

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