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Searching For A Church Renewed by the Spirit

September 28, 2016


18th Sunday of Holy Trinitychurch-old

For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by their peers.

Therefore, let us strive to promote everything that leads to peace and to mutual edification.


Romans 14:17-19 (NIV)

The essence of the Christian community is love. That’s why the gospel for this Sunday talks about the greatest commandment, to love God and one’s neighbour. Needless to say, because we have already explained it in previous messages, that this love is certainly not the concept of “love” that the world has today. True love is ‘agape’, that is, pure love, a selfless love that doesn’t seek benefit for oneself but for the other. The Greek word ‘agape’ (love) seems to have been a Christian invention. A new word for something new (this word was almost never recorded before the New Testament). Agape originates directly from the revelation of God in Christ. It is not a form of affection, although it is an intense affection, but rather the supernatural fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22). It has more to do with the will rather than feeling (for Christians must love even those they dislike-Mt 5: 44-48) It is the basic aim of all those who want to be like Christ.
—the pure love of Christ should be spread and should be the guiding principle for every rule, every regulation and the statutes of churches.

Why does the Apostle Paul speak specifically about food and drink? It seems that the meat that could be bought in Rome came from pagan slaughterhouses; before the animals were slaughtered they were dedicated to the pagan Roman gods. Some Christians in Rome thought the meat was consecrated to idols; they thought that those who consume it would be promoting idolatry. Others said that as Christians they were free to eat anything and they did give much importance to where meat came from. These simple questions could be given too much weight and lead to deep disagreements within the church.
There are many more things like these issues of the early church that have occurred throughout the history of the Christian church, even in our own history!

Until hundred years ago, in many Lutheran churches, you had to go dressed in black to receive Holy Communion. And those who did not dress like that would receive a bad reputation.

In many other churches, men sat to the left of the altar and women on the right, separated. In many other churches, women were expected cover their heads. This tradition continues to this day in some churches. In many other Christian communities, it is customary to receive the sacrament once a year; in others it is done every Sunday, as requested by Martin Luther.

In other churches, some hymns are sung and others are not. In other churches, organ music was preferred and other kinds of instruments were not allowed. In some Mennonite churches, as we know from our area, no musical instruments are allowed.

I remember once, in one of the congregations where I served, they had organized a luncheon. Luncheons were quite sporadic in this small rural congregation, and they were the only way to get extra income for the entire community. A good profit was obtained. All other surrounding sister congregations were invited. One of the members of one of the congregations proposed for entertainment and fundraising purposes that the community have a bingojuy. After lunch, each of the participants contributed with some money and the winners got small prizes. That way it contributed to the church and people were entertained. But one of the brothers from the local congregation became very angry with the outside brothers who came and said they were not Christians since they brought games into the church. He said that they were against the holiness of the site of the church. He told them: ‘they have sowed the tares among our wheat’.
He even came to mention, perhaps out of context, the verse in the Bible where Jesus rebukes merchants in the temple and says, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Mark 11:17) There, from listening to the words of that verse many got confused about whether they had done something wrong or not; others, on the contrary, felt that there was nothing wrong with that and that Jesus’ words referred to those who drew their own benefit at the expense of the church.
But here’s a good example:

I remember the story of a good brother who opposed moving the church altar in the little church (which had no parish hall) to install a simple stage so that children could put together the Christmas manger and could offer a Christmas play on Christmas’ Eve. He opposed so strongly that it caused discomfort in the congregation, even though the Christmas play was to be performed.

Or I think of how many parents, which in some respects includes me and my wife, who wonder about whether or not children should celebrate Halloween. For us, it is a well known party, but it is not celebrated or rooted in South America’s customs. Some think that it is a harmless costume party that is great fun for children. My own daughter told me the other day: ‘for me the two most beautiful holidays are Christmas and Halloween’. But others fear the dangerous influence of superstition, witchcraft and the worship of spirits included in the origin of this celebration that only serves to confuse and blur the true faith.

The liturgy, that is, the order of the worship service of churches, has always been a matter of discussion and controversy within Christian communities, even from long before the reformation. People have often argues over the way to celebrate the worship service to God every Sunday. There are many who think that since they have been brought up in a church with a particular liturgy since childhood, and they have only heard the liturgy that way, that that’s the only way to worship God in church. But there are other brothers and sisters of the same denomination elsewhere who worship a little different, to the same God but with other hymns, other words, other instruments and other music. We are all worshiping equally and with the same authenticity to the same God. And changes in the churches are always necessary, like the same changes we make in our own lives, our clothes, our car, our house, our friends and our acquaintances. Changes are a part of life. And the church also needs to change because the church also needs to be alive and grow and to be renewed and refreshed to give again and again a place for the Holy Spirit of God, who likes to clean and renew the hearts of everyone one of us again and again.

The most important thing we have to consider to address these issues in the life of the church is the commandment of love of Jesus Christ, and especially the words of the apostle for today: “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” The church should arrogate to the search of justice within and outside the church. Justice is a very important word; justice means the equality that comes from the love of God and neighbor. Peace is harmony among Christians without confrontation or resentments. And joy in the Holy Spirit, if these two virtues are present in the church we will have a place where the Holy Spirit of God is manifested with the joy we seek in Christian churches.

We must be careful before saying that an opinion is correct and the other is wrong. The apostle tells us (in Romans 14 and 15) that each of us is free on these issues. Those who feel bad about eating meat from the Romans, they may become vegetarian, but they should not despise other Christians who are eating meat freely. And those who eat meat should not belittle others who reject meat for reasons of conscience. All must be respected.

And so the apostle concludes: “Therefore, let us strive to promote everything that leads to peace and to mutual edification.”
And this is not just talking about a cute slogan for society, but is talking about a practical strategy to implement in our own church.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “Do not waste your time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.”

May God allow us to strive for and to promote everything that leads to peace and to mutual edification in our church.
The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen

One Comment leave one →
  1. Ellen Adam permalink
    September 29, 2016 12:37 am

    Thank you. Enjoyed reading. Peace to all.

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