For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…~ Romans 12:4-6
Perhaps this is a gross over generalization, but it would seem that for the average parishioner at St. John’s, life in the church is really pretty simple. Service times are what they are, and when I come to church on Saturday or Sunday or Wednesday, I expect that the doors will be open, the lights will be on, a pew will be available in which to sit, and a pastor will be there to bless and forgive and speak and baptize and feed. That is the main bit, and in addition, there are other things that go on, and if something sounds interesting, I may participate if it fits in with the other things on my plate. Other than that, it doesn’t really matter what else goes on. I give my offering, I come when I can for service, and in return, my spiritual needs are met.
The truth of the matter is, though, that in order for the average parishioner to find their expectations met, there is a lot of behind the scenes things that take place to make that happen. You have a pastor and a vicar who put in six days a week in preparation for services, preparation for Bible Studies, visitation of the sick and shut in, teaching youth and adults, handling day to day business of the church, and spending time in prayer for all in need. You have a church secretary who handles a lot of the details of church business, making sure all of our supplies in church and office are available, handling questions, making the bulletins ready, preparing various letters and documents, scheduling service assistants, and the like. You have a Music Director who makes sure that the very valued and treasured music of the church is prepared and rehearsed, that choirs are ready, that special events are planned and organized, and that musicians here have a chance to learn and grow. You have a bookkeeper who oversees the financial end of things, keeping the books in balance, letting us know when money is short, and ensuring that payroll, quarterly and annual statements get out, and that envelopes are available and tracking is on line. And, you have a Youth Director who oversees the youth programs, teaches class, plans events, coordinates things on a circuit and district level, and ensures that events are executed well. But those are the folks who are paid to be here, who are called to serve in these roles.
However, they are not the Church. They are part of what helps to lead and guide the Church, but they are not the Church. You are. There are, aside from them, countless volunteers who make everything run the way it does. There is an Altar Guild to make sure communion is ready each week; Trustees who keep our buildings and grounds up to date; a Finance Committee who does a checks and balances on all financial matters; Sunday School teachers and leaders who help our kids learn the faith; Social Ministries to assist those in need; Divine Service assistants to read and usher and steward; Choir members who enhance our time in God’s house; Video Ministry which helps get our services out on the web; an Outreach committee that works on faithful relationships both inside and outside the congregation; and a Church Life Board that works on building our spiritual life. In addition, there are a bunch of others who work on fund raisers and other human care endeavors of our congregation.
And over all of this, we have a church council that works to put all of these pieces together and ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible. And, the truth of the matter is, they could always use more help. Pleas have gone out in the past via announcements and email and newsletter blurbs, but I cannot stress enough the need once again. We have many spots open on our council, and there are other areas where more help is needed. As Paul reminds us, we all have gifts that we can offer. And so this month I ask you: are you making use of the gifts that God has given you? Is there a place where you can work alongside your brothers and sisters in Christ for the good of Christ’s Church and his people? There are some churches that require members to find one place to serve…no one is simply a churchgoer. They go to church, and they work a place in the church. This, however, should not be a requirement. It should be a privilege and a joy, and a way of returning thanks to God for all that he does for us.
This Eastertide, I encourage you to consider your place at St. John’s, and where you could offer your gifts to help support the body of Christ. If you are not sure where you might fit, ask me, and we’ll figure it out together. Or if you know, and you’ve always wanted to help but never have, now’s the time. If everyone does a little, then no one will feel as though they are stuck with a job for life (which is sort of the current understanding of roles in the church because the same people have been doing them for so long. Believe me, they are willing to share!). It really is part of our Christian life and place in the Church, and I promise that you will find joy even in the midst of the work. And then, the work of Christ may be accomplished more diligently and the body of Christ will be built up as we work together, doing the work of the Gospel, and living together in the hope of an eternal, resurrected life. A blessed Eastertide to all of you!
Teach us, O Lord, true thankfulness divine,
That gives as Christ gave, never counting cost,
That knows no barrier of “yours” and “mine,”
Assured that only what’s withheld is lost. (LSB #788, st. 4)
~ Pastor Noack
Thanks again! – Thank you to all of those who pitched in to assist with our Holy Week and Easter services. It was another wonderful time to meditate upon Christ’s Passion, and to rejoice in the Easter victory. From the ushers to the service assistants to the flower coordinator to the musicians and choir folks to the a/v team to the altar guild to our bulletin putter-togetherers and all the others who helped put pieces of the services together (thanks to my cross builders!), thank you! Thanks also to Cindy and Rex Holden for all their work, and to Vicar for doing a lot of the heavy lifting on chanting this year! It is such a blessing to work with these folks, and to serve the people of St. John’s alongside you all.
Imagine a doctor approaching you on the street and offering you a treatment for cancer. He could describe the benefits of receiving the treatment and its positive impact on all his patients, but unless you had cancer, you would turn down his offer. However, if you were examined and found to have cancer, then you would reconsider the doctor’s offer. It isn’t until you discover that there is a serious problem that you see the need for a treatment of that problem.
Whether we know it or not, we are all infected with the cancer of sin. Sin affects our thoughts, words, and deeds so that we sin by what we do and by what we fail to do. Each of these sins separates us from God. For our sins, we deserve God’s punishment in this world and forever (see the confession of sins on page 184 of the hymnal).
Just as someone with cancer needs to be examined in order for the cancer to be discovered, we need to be examined to see our sinful condition. God, through His Law in Scripture, performs the work of examining us so that we see our sin (see James 1:22-25; Romans 3:19-20) and our need for a Savior.
Not all want to be examined by God’s Word. The world may tell you to cover over your sin by ignoring it, excusing it, defending it, minimizing it, or believing you can make up for your sin with good works. Such approaches may make a person feel better for the time being, but they do not take care of the root problem. If a cancer patient were to ignore, excuse, defend, or minimize his cancer, he might say, “I don’t really have cancer” or “this cancer is part of who I am, and I like it – who are you to tell me that this cancer is a problem” or “the cancer really isn’t that bad; I don’t need treatment.” The person is either unwilling to acknowledge the existence of a problem or unwilling to acknowledge the seriousness of the problem. In any event, the patient does not believe that treatment is necessary. Like such a patient, if we ignore, excuse, defend, or minimize our sin then we are saying that we really do not want or need a Savior to rescue us from our sins. Thus, we turn our backs on the treatment which will save us from eternal death and give us eternal life.
Only Jesus can treat the cancer of sin by His forgiveness. His death paid for our sins, and by His resurrection, He declares that we will have a new life free of the cancer of sin. In the meantime, the treatment Jesus offers guards us against the crafty ways of Satan, who wants the cancer of sin to take over our lives so that we follow Satan and perish eternally. So run to Jesus with your sin. In Him, we don’t have to try to ignore, defend, excuse, minimize, or pay God back for our sin. We can simply admit it and run to the cross for forgiveness and new life.
In order to help us understand our sin and our need for Christ, I have adapted a tool sometimes called a “confessional mirror” for use here at St. John’s. You will find a laminated edition of it in every pew and another edition in the back of each hymnal (open the back cover and then turn the last page). If you would like to take one home, you will also find extra copies of it on the lectern in the foyer of the sanctuary. This tool takes you through each of the Ten Commandments, asking questions about each Commandment.
When you come to church, I encourage you to read through the questions on one or two Commandments, and perhaps pull out the pew Bible to read a story that accompanies the Commandment. Then, in silent prayer, confess the sins that have been brought to light as a result of your reflection and think of those sins as you speak the words of the confession and as you prepare to receive the Lord’s Supper.
Then, as you return from the Lord’s Supper, call on our Savior to strengthen your faith in Him so that you live as God calls us to live. These questions not only remind us of our sin but also instruct us in how we are to live as Christians – telling us what it looks like to live the good life that God has designed for us.
Please let me know if you have any questions about this resource for our lives as Christians – a life in which we constantly need the mirror of God’s Word to expose the cancer of sin so that we may confess our sin and flee to the mercy of God in Jesus Christ. He comes to offer us the only treatment that will wash away your sins and give you new life. ~Vicar Burfiend