My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
The Peace of the Lord be with you!
November 1 is observed as All Saints Day and today is observed as All Saints Lord’s Day, the time when the Church remembers those who died in Christ. While it may seem to be the emphasis is on those who died, All Saints actually helps us to refocus on the Body of Christ as a whole.
One of the Church Fathers, St. Augustine of Hippo, first described the Church as visible and invisible. Why? That is because ‘the church is, on one hand, an earthly body, organized and visible. On the other hand, it is also invisible, in that no human agency can finally say who is or is not a member.’ That final judgment belongs to God (VIP 168 vs 1). Our human tendency is to establish standards on God’s behalf and focus only on the human visible side of the church (Luke 9:49-50, VIP 168 vs 5).
We accept persons into the visible church based on their confession of faith. Additionally, it would be helpful if we recognize that the visible church will always be a mixed body inclusive of ‘sheep’ and ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’. Yet, the church is a wonderfully hopeful body, one for which Christ died.
What this means for us who have been received by grace into the church visible and invisible, whether by baptism, confirmation, or adult decision (right hand of fellowship) is that we should never take our membership for granted. We all have our limitations and problems, but it should not deter us, nor should we deter others, from joining in the purposes of God in Christ for God’s world. In fact, in being human, our greatest obligation to the church visible, and humanity at large, is to be ourselves. That is what Jesus did and that is what makes up the “stuff” of saints.
Have a “saintly” week in Jesus!
Your pastor and friend,
Mark S. Christmas