Pastoral Musing: April 28, 2020 (St. Paul of the Cross, Confessor)
Two thoughts today…
We are all familiar with the age old question “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Genesis 1:22, 23 leads me to believe the best answer is the chicken.
But what about the question “Which came first, the Church or the people in it?” The answer to that question is 100% certain, the Church came first!
We know this because Jesus (the Second Person of the Holy Trinity) is the head of the Church (Colossians 1:15-19) and He exists from before the dawn of time (St. John 1:1-14, Heb. 1:1-10).
In St. Matthew 16:18, Jesus said “…I will build my church…” It is His Church, which He builds, as He wills.
The sad and often frustrating thing is many Christians today live as if the people came first and the Church exists for them! They see the Church (and churches) the way they see stores and restaurants, that must cater to their tastes and perceived needs in order to get them to come.
Sadly, a number of churches accept this thinking and adopt a consumer business model to accommodate it. Their “Have it your way” approach to “doing church” causes them to constantly change their form of worship and doctrine in order to “keep customers coming back.”
This entire way of thinking is not Biblical!
We as the people of God should see the Church as a place for us to belong, where we must belong to secure salvation, the place we secure life Himself (St. John 14:6). The Church is the Body of Christ, which Jesus Himself has called us into by Holy Baptism. Baptism isn’t a club membership; it’s an adoption into the family of God! It is a privilege to be brought into spiritual union with the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit; to be born again (St. John 3:3-5).
How does this get flipped around as if we are doing God the favor, as if we are giving Him the blessing by our believing in Him and then going to church? No one would say this, but the lives of many reflect it to be true. Hopefully not ours.
We are to go to church to give. We go to offer ourselves, our souls and bodies as a reasonable, holy and living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). As we do this, God gives us immeasurable blessings in this life and in that which is to come. We do not earn or buy God’s blessings with the offering of ourselves, but we are enabled to receive them. Faithfulness is a choice God gives us to make by His grace. When we do, He blesses us for making it.
My second thought is related…
As I was growing up within the Roman Catholic Church in the early 1970’s, I was taught that everyone “assisted at mass.” The priest / celebrant, the readers, organist, singers and servers, yes, but also every man, woman and child in the nave had an active part in “assisting at mass.” The role each had and the way each assisted was different, but all assisted equally within their part.
That has changed drastically over time to the point where today it is believed that only those who are “up front” assist at mass. The rest merely “attend” like the audience at a musical.
1 Corinthians 12:14-17 states the contemporary mindset is false: (NKJV) “14 For in fact the body is not one member but many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? 18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor;… 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.”
St. Paul is saying the anonymous, elderly woman, a prayer warrior, sitting in the nave Sunday after Sunday, fervently lending her voice and her body (standing, sitting, listening and kneeling if she can) is as honorable within the parish body and is assisting in the mass, as the priest standing at the altar robed in glorious vestments!
The Body is one! We worship as one (read Nehemiah 8:1-5).
At mass, as well as in parish life, we were all part of the one Body of Christ, and every part of that body is needed for healthy function. When this is not the case, dysfunction will result.
But when offer ourselves before God to bring Him glory, and give of ourselves to one another for our mutual edification, we (all) are assisting at mass.
This is my musing for today. Thanks for reading it.