“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”
—1 Corinthians 15:3-4
It occurred to me recently that I had spent an hour talking about the Church, but said very little about Jesus. I was speaking to a group of the servants about issues facing the Church and congregations today. It is easy for us to focus so much on the challenges of the culture and the pressures that we are facing that we take the focus off Christ. Whether it is a contentious voters’ meeting or a Synod convention, we need to guard ourselves against losing sight of Christ because of our zeal for our little corner of Christendom.
For people who are overwhelmed by the pain and anguish of life in this fallen world, words about the Church do not bring comfort. Sometimes a congregation is the source of the pain for the hurting soul. Individual congregations and even our national church body are still human organizations where sinful and selfish behaviors are regularly on display. What pastors, commissioned ministers and lay people need is not words about the Missouri District or the Missouri Synod, but the Gospel. Holy Week is not about a bump in offerings or increased attendance, but Christ’s body and blood for poor sinners. What is of first importance for pastors and parishioners alike is that Christ died and rose again so that we might be forgiven and have the hope of eternal life. The Gospel is not a program or an initiative, but words of life spoken to those need to be reminded of what is of first importance.
Last week, thousands of people came through the doors of churches across Missouri. They brought with them their lies, fears, betrayals, and resentments. Some slid into the last pews just after the service began, while others greeted everyone who walked through the doors. Some had been there the Sunday before, while others had been absent for some time. Some came grudgingly, while others have their names on the sign out front. But every person who walked in needed to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that their sins were forgiven for His sake and that He died and rose from the grave because of His love for them. That’s what is most important. Not budgets. Not meetings. Not elections. Jesus, only Jesus!
Prayer – Almighty God, our heavenly Father, in Your great love for us, You sent Your beloved Son, Jesus, to suffer and die and rise triumphant from the grave so that we might be forgiven of all our sins and live in the hope of eternal life with you in heaven; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan