Summary: God makes a big deal out of church by offering his blessings through a local congregation.
Reader’s Digest records an interesting conversation between three frustrated pastors. Three pastors got together for coffee one day and found all their churches had bat infestation problems. “I got so mad,” said one, “I took a shotgun and fired at them. It made holes in the ceiling, but did nothing to the bats.” “I tried trapping them alive,” said the second. “Then I drove 50 miles before releasing them but they beat me back to the church.” “I haven’t had any more problems,” said the third. “What did you do?” asked the others, amazed. “I simply baptized and confirmed them,” he replied. “I haven’t seen them since.” (Reader’s Digest, July, 1994, p. 64)
I have heard many a veteran pastor express similar sentiments – not about bats – but about people. It’s unfortunate – but it seems that many people believe that the only thing that the church is good for is baptizing, confirming, marrying, and burying them. So long as the church covers those four bases that’s all the church is good for. Beyond that the church is really nothing more than a nuisance.
But is that God’s view of the value of church? How would God answer the question, “Is church really that big a deal?” We turn to Colossians chapter 3 for the answer. Through the inspired words of the Apostle Paul God encourages us to: Be Thankful for the Blessings of This Christian Congregation. I) Because it binds you together with other members of Christ’s body and II) Because it builds you up in the richness of Christ’s Word.
One of the greatest blessings of being part of this Christian congregation is that through it you are united together with other members of Christ’s body. For some of you that uniting started early in life at the baptismal font – when the love of Christ was poured into your heart as water was applied in the name of the Triune God. For others that came when a faithful Christian friend or family member shared the precious truth of Jesus’ love for you. It’s that love that unites us – the love that Christ has showered on each one of us, the love that knows no boundaries, that looked death in the face and knocked out its teeth, that smashed the shackles of sin, and destroyed hell’s furious grasp on each one of us. Each of us is clothed in that love that binds us and our various gifts together in service to one another.
United by that love we can live in peace with one another. This Christian congregation provides us with that unique environment. In a culture marked by strife and discord, marred by violence, a place that praises the theory that only the strong survive and prosper, and richly rewards those who are willing to double-cross, backstab, and scheme to get ahead – in such a world the church presents a radically different approach to life. This is a place where people matter, where sin is forgiven, where relationships are restored, and peace prospers. This is a place where other people’s needs and wants are more important than my own. This is a place where the peace of Christ rules because the peace of Christ, the peace of forgiveness, the peace of a right relationship with God is established and strengthened in each of our hearts.
Those are tremendous blessings! This is a place where you can make friendships that truly last forever! This is a place where happiness and purpose and fulfillment are found. This is the place where I want to be because this is a place that wants me and moves me to live in line with the kind of person Jesus Christ died to declare me to be, one of his dearly loved brothers and sisters. That’s why I love this time with all of you in worship on Sunday mornings! This is a time and a place where we as Christ’s church get to fully and freely act like Christ’s church. It doesn’t matter whether we’re young or old, rich or poor, black or white, sick or healthy, or somewhere in between – right here every Sunday morning we are united together by the love of Christ restored and renewed in the peace that only his life and his love can bring to our hearts.
But how is that blessing maintained and encouraged to grow? After all – human beings by nature aren’t peaceful people. By nature we love to create divisions and raise disagreements. By nature we’re people who love to get our own way and could care very little about what somebody else thinks or feels. By nature we love to think we’re right and everybody else is all wet. So how exactly can we hope to overcome that unity-breaking, peace-destroying attitude that lives deep within each one of us?