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Monday, February 14, 2005

Church: Place or people?

A classified ad ran in a local newspaper this past week: "Church for rent. Pastor and congregation needed." Whoever placed the ad thinks of church in a way that so many of us do -- as a building, a structure, a fixture -- but a way that seems foreign to Christ and the apostles.

A quick search of Bible Gateway illustrates that not one passage on the church could be written about a building. Paul writes about the church in a human way. The church hears news, earnestly prays, gathers together, welcomes others, and the list continues.

God declared "I will be your God, and you will be my people," and he meant the church. We are not merely a denomination or a building or a bunch of like-minded friends, but a people that make up the body of Christ. Word and Sacrament are the means that make this people the church, because they are the means which Christ delivers Himself to us.

In many churches that I've attended, the sacraments have assumed such a low position and priority they rank far below singing and praying in importance. Even personal study time is often considered more valuable than the Lord's Supper and Holy Baptism. How long can a group of regularly gathered Christians consider themselves a church if they continue to marginalize Word and Sacrament?

The devaluation of the sacraments will always push the church away from being a people, and toward being only a place.