We thank Neil Snyder for serving as our guest devotioneer this week.
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (Matthew 28:16-19)
It is interesting that the disciples’ first reaction upon seeing Jesus was to worship him just prior to receiving the Great Commission. God’s creation, the church, seems to have been and still is a vehicle to inspire, equip, and nourish his disciples, then and now, in order to fulfill much of what the Commission commanded and implied.
To this end the church uses components such as worship, instruction, and fellowship to do much of this inspiring, equipping, and nourishing of its disciples. So affixed with this God-given armor, we step out into God’s world, hopefully better prepared than we were, to serve and love, until that time when we need to return and recharge.
Many, many of us have been blessed more than we deserve, but not everything is all honky-dory, at least in part because of our own sin. We feel the need to frequently direct our attention to God and his church to seek the hope of unqualified grace, to have our confessions heard, to hear the declaration of God’s forgiveness, to use the Means of Grace, to hear the unfettered Gospel preached, to mingle with and learn from each other, to know the comfort that we are not alone in the process, and to experience a brief, comforting respite from the brokenness around us. THEN, as we go forth so inspired, equipped, and nourished, then we can better uncover the many ways to serve others as commanded, through our words, deeds, and affiliations.
We need this to confront the daily barrage of violence and hate we see and hear from multiple, immediate sources. Some, perhaps many of us are not built in such a way as to continually and effectively deal with this barrage alone. We need help from the church to better address our needs of inspiration and nourishment. The church needs to constantly reassess its efforts in this regard. This should be as much of a mission (renewal and recharging) as any other mission or advocacy of the church, offered to and for its very own, thirsty members.
There are various good and honorable prioritizations of what the primary focus of today’s church should be. Recognizing and strengthening the uniqueness of the church’s position to inspire, equip, and nourish each individual will serve both the hope of the Great Commission and the needs of our communities and friends. Moreover, it will enhance the spiritual strength of each individual member so they can re-enter this world each day courageously, in peace, and with a better sense of where and how they might serve others and each other.
I write this because over the years I have heard about the hallmarks of unity espoused by the church time and again, yet I hear and feel more and more words of divisiveness, separating us through guilt by identity, guilt as a recipient of blessings given, guilt by associations, guilt for being what we are. Revenge, reparations, and recriminations for the imperfections and mistakes of our predecessors does not seem like a good path. I think it just feeds, wrongly justifies, and drives hate and bitterness on all sides, no matter how well intended.
I don’t need to feel free and easy exiting worship at church, but I do want to feel better challenged to improve myself, better equipped and more nourished to serve others, freed from the guilt in order to serve like a truly renewed and refreshed person until next time. I think that is what God wants me to do with the gifts offered through His church. If forgiveness is truly forgiveness, then it needs to be believed and affirmed as such, when offered; forgotten, washed away, done with, lesson heard and learned, heart renewed. THEN let me get into the fray of social and civic life unburdened, take a good, informed, and non-accusatory look at the brokenness of today, and pick my spots using the gifts God has given me the wisdom with which to perceive them, and really do some good!