“The God Who” Series”
February 27-28, 2021
“The God Who Brings Us Together”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Last week I told you the worries that I have for this church, my church, your church – Ascension Lutheran Church. This week I continue that thought. One of our members sent me this post –
Church is hard.
Church is hard for the person walking through the doors, afraid of judgment.
Church is hard for the pastor’s family, under the microscope of an entire body.
Church is hard for the prodigal soul returning home, broken and battered by the world.
Church is hard for the girl who looks like she has it all together, but doesn’t.
Church is hard for the couple who fought the entire way to the worship service.
Church is hard for the single mom next to couples holding hands and seemingly perfect families.
Church is hard for the widow and widower with no invitation to lunch after church.
Church is hard for the church leader with an estranged child.
Church is hard for the person singing worship songs, overwhelmed by the weight of the lyrics.
Church is hard for the man insecure in his role as a leader.
Church is hard for the wife who longs to be led by a righteous husband.
Church is hard for the nursery volunteer who desperately longs for a baby to love.
Church is hard for the single woman and single man, praying God will bring them a mate.
Church is hard for the teenage girl, wearing a scarlet letter, ashamed of her mistakes.
Church is hard for sinners.
Church is hard for me.
It’s hard because on the outside it looks shiny and perfect. Sunday best in behavior and dress.
Yet underneath those layers, you find a body of imperfect people, carnal souls, selfish motives.
But, here is the beauty of the church –
Church isn’t a building, mentality, or expectation.
Church is a body.
Church is a group of sinners, saved by grace, living in fellowship as saints.
Church is a body of believers bound as brothers and sisters by an eternal love.
Church is a holy ground where sinners stand as equals before the Throne of Grace.
Church is a refuge for broken hearts and a training ground for mighty warriors.
Church is a lesson in faith and trust.
Church is a bearer of burdens and a giver of hope.
Church is a converging of confrontation and invitation. Where sin is confronted and hearts are invited to seek restoration.
Church is a family. A family coming together, setting aside differences, forgetting past mistakes, rejoicing in the smallest of victories.
Church, the body, and the circle of sinners-turned-saints, is where Jesus resides.
So even on the hard days at church – the days when I’m at odds with a friend; when I’ve fought with my husband because we’re late once again; when I’ve walked in, bearing burdens heavier than my heart can handle, yet masking the pain with a smile on my face; when I’ve longed for a baby to hold, or fought back tears as the lyrics were sung; when I’ve walked back in, afraid and broken, after walking away; I’ll remember. He has never failed to meet me there.
That account of how hard church can be, written by Jacob Waldron, is true. That’s us. We walk into this place with a whole bunch of baggage. Church, supposed to be a bright, happy, wonderful place and experience, can be anything but that. Some people, who have experienced such deep pain about being here, avoid entering these doors for good reasons. What that man wrote about church is true.
Paul has spent a bunch of time in this letter about a church, once fractured, coming together, being one body. But that is a hard thing to do when we feel isolated from one another and from God. Look at his words about unity:
- But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility. (Ephesians 2:13-14)
- This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise of Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 3:6)
- In our reading from Ephesians 4 – Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Verse 3)
- So that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:12b-13)
Do you know what unifies us? It is when we know that life can be hard, and faith can be hard, and living in unity with the people that are closest to us can be hard. That challenge comes here and at home and at work. Amy Dickinson writes in the Denver Post a daily advice column. Her readers write about the problems in their life. Most of the letters are about how to restore relationships when life has been fractured by the people we trusted and loved the most. Step One – know how hard living in a God pleasing unity with others can be. It is difficult to be “all together” when are own life is so fractured.
Step Two. Know the heart of God because we have a God who brings us together. First, He brings us fractured people to His own side. Jesus Christ is called the “Prince of Peace” for all the right reasons. Our lives, with too many sins, too much of ourself in it, have been brought to God’s arms of forgiveness and unity through the blood of Jesus. He died. You’re forgiven. He died. He rose. You have found peace with God. We are no longer two but one – through Christ.
In the text we run into some familiar words, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:3-6) 7 times in this section the number “one” is used. God brings us together by His working.
The first sin, the rebellion of Adam and Eve, refusing to submit to God’s will, taking something that He told them to resist, led to a deep division between Adam, Eve and God. God looked for them after their leap into sin and they didn’t want to see Him. They ran away. When God asked Adam why he did what he did – he clearly distanced himself from those he thought were the real culprits of the crime, “The woman you put here with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:12) So much for unity and togetherness.
But God doesn’t give up so easy. Even in the same chapter God promises that He would send a Savior who was going to crush the head of the serpent, the evil one. (See Genesis 3:15) And even now He works through the church and the message that the church brings. The work that all pastors and teachers, and those who came before us, do is to build up the church – the body of Christ, to promote a unity of faith, a life of service and love and to grow as disciples of Jesus. Listen to what Paul says about how this God who brings us together works, “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 4:11-13)
Jacob Waldron knew what he was talking about when he began with the words, “Church is hard.” But he also knew what he was talking about when his final words were, “I’ll remember He has never failed to meet me there.”
Life is hard. Faith is hard. Church is hard. But we have a God, in Jesus, who brings us together and allows us to live with confidence even the hardest days. Amen!!