Do you like to hear and to tell stories? Most people do. We tell lots of stories as part of our conversations. We tell stories of things we have done and said. We tell the story of things that happened around us and we tell stories that were told to us. These stories give us joy. Have you thought about what an important role the story plays at church?
Though many stories are told around here, the Church is here to tell just one story, Jesus’ story. The Church is here to tell the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. We are here to tell the story of why He had to come and what a blessing it is that He did. Jesus’ story is the story we are to tell, to share with each other, our family, our friends and especially with those who have not heard it. But how do we do that? What would we say? Well it is what the Church is here to tell you, so think about how that is done. Think about the church year and how it tells the story of Jesus and of our salvation each year.
Let’s quickly walk through it to get your thoughts started. The church year begins with Advent, the season of waiting. How the people waited for and longed for their Savior to come and how we wait for our Savior to return. Then Christmas and the Savior is born. Jesus comes as a human, to take our place under the law, and as divine, in order that He can fulfill the law for us. We have a great need and Jesus comes to meet that need. In Epiphany He reveals Himself, and God the Father speaks on His behalf. Jesus reveals His divine power in His miracles. He reveals that God is active here among us. He is the beloved Son of God.
Then there is Lent, when we are shown our great need for our Savior and the forgiveness of sins that He comes to secure for us. This comes clearest on Good Friday when we see the punishment our Lord took for our sin and on Maundy Thursday when Jesus distributes that forgiveness along with His body and blood for us to eat and to drink. Then we celebrate His resurrection. God the Father declares Jesus’ work sufficient and accepted and us free in His sight. Jesus shows Himself alive and tells His church to share His story. Then He ascends to the right hand of God to be our advocate with the Father.
The church year takes us through Jesus’ story each year. In that way we hear it and learn it. We become more comfortable with it. We can use its outline to be ready to tell Jesus’ story to those who need to hear. We can use it to tell the whole story of our salvation or just one part that someone needs to hear at the time. We can begin at Christmas and tell Jesus’ whole life to someone who does not know Him, or simply remember that He is at the Father’s right hand and offer to pray for someone in need. So the Church is about Jesus’ story. We are here to be blessed by it and to share it and He is with us through it all.
We’ve just had Reformation Day and people are starting to look forward to the 500th anniversary of “The Reformation.” I often wonder how much people think about the effects of the Reformation.
There may be other things, but I want to keep our focus on how it affected our faith life. The Reformation was really about returning the church’s focus to the Gospel and the Scriptures from which it comes. When Martin Luther showed that the church teaches salvation comes when God gives us Christ’s righteousness, so much changed in the life of the Christian. Salvation came as God’s gift of grace received by faith. We remember that with the phrases by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
Salvation by grace is massively important because it touches us in all parts of our faith life. One way that is easily overlooked is the way this truth changed worship. We no longer “sacrificed the Mass.” We received the Sacrament in the Divine Service. That changes the direction from “us doing for God” to “God giving us His gifts.” That is a blessing we continue to enjoy today.
Rather than being in church to “earn points” or “do enough” to please God, He invites us to come and receive from Him. God gives us the forgiveness of sins. He speaks to us His Word the Bible. Most intimate of all, Jesus our Lord touches us with his body and blood, coming to us with the bread and wine of the Lords Supper. As we share in these blessed gifts of God each week, they He bless you with his peace.
I haven’t traveled much recently. I don’t really remember much about the last airline flight I took but one thing has been brought back to mind. During the safety briefing they always tell those traveling with small children to be sure their mask is in place before assisting the child. That sounds a little strange. Some have even commented that it seems wrong, but I do understand.
If there really is a loss of cabin pressure and you need the masks, it makes sense that you won’t be able to help your children if you aren’t getting oxygen yourself. The instructions are to make sure you are in shape and able to help your children. I know that seems backwards because doing it the other way around seems to be about caring for your children, about doing something for them. But the truth is if you’re not breathing, you can’t help them.
As I said, this was brought to my thoughts recently. I thought of it as I reflected on how often parents are sure to have their babies baptized, how they send them to Sunday school and how they want their children to be confirmed. That struck me as being like wanting to get the oxygen mask on their kids. Now these are good things but that is when it occurred to me “Do the parents have their masks in place?”
In the biblical languages the word for "spirit" and the word for "breath" are the same. As parents we need to be breathing. We need to have our mask in place in order to assist our children. The breath of our faith life is the Holy Spirit; the Spirit who comes and gives life in Holy Baptism.
To sustain that life, the Spirit breathed out the Bible for us. We need to be in God’s Word to ensure our “mask” is in place, and we are breathing and to then help our children breath that inspired Word of God.
Rev. Don Stock is the Associate Pastor at St. Paul's Ev. Lutheran Church in Munster, Indiana.
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