I was startled recently to discover that roughly 70 percent of the world’s Christians live without the right to worship (Belz, Mindy, “Joining the Chorus,” World Magazine, February 16, 2019). We are privileged to live in the 30 percent can take going to church publicly for granted. We can become complacent and nonchalant about it. But those who do not have the right to worship in their countries tend to be more devoted to worship when done in secret. There is more of an urgency and necessity among those who do not have the right to worship. They find a way to do it. They are excited to take part. They are drawn closer to Christ through the activity of clandestine church.
The next time you go to church, imagine that you do not live in a place where you can worship openly. How does that affect your worship? Is there a richness, a depth, that perhaps was not there before? Is there more joy in the practice of worship when you consider it is something that is not allowed in most of the world? Is there a greater gratitude to God for the blessing of public worship?
Keep the 70 percent in prayer. Keep going to church. Keep the Church alive through your dedication to it.
In the Fall 2016 Concordia Journal, Professor Jeff Gibbs talks about the Gospel language that Matthew uses to share the news that Christ has come to save us through his death and resurrection.
In Matthew the good news of Christ is presented in the Gospel language of living under the reign of God. For instance in Matthew 5:3, Matthew records Jesus saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Gibbs points out that if Paul had written that verse, he would have said, “Redeemed are those who are enslaved, for Christ has set them free.” Paul’s gospel language is about freedom from slavery.
If John would have written it, it would have said, “Enlightened are those who were in darkness, for Christ is the light of the world,” because John’s Gospel language is light and darkness.
I find the idea of different Gospel languages interesting because I have found that people often have a favorite type of Gospel language that they are drawn to. For instance, my adopted grandma, Mrs. Graber, always liked Good Shepherd Sunday and loved the hymn, “Children of the Heavenly Father.” Her preferred Gospel language was about being safe and secure in the lovingly arms of a Shepherd or a father.
It might be a good practice for each of us to evaluate what Gospel language has the most meaning and resonance for us personally, and then it is good for us to consider what Gospel language might have the most significance to a friend or family member or someone we are witnessing to.
The sure message of the Gospel is always the same (We are saved from sin, death and the devil by Christ alone), but understanding what way to share the Gospel message to a certain person can be just as important as conveying the Gospel message itself. Something to think about the next time you are talking to someone about Jesus.
In the May 2017 issue of Living Lutheran, President of Bread for the World David Beckmann talked about the role of the Church in combating hunger.
In the article he noted, “God did not send Moses to Pharaoh to take up a collection of canned goods, but rather to insist that he let the slaves go free” (Living Lutheran, May 2017, p. 12).
I found that interesting and motivating. Sometimes we as the Church are called to stand up for the rights of the hungry, the thirsty, the downtrodden. We must do what we can to get to the root of the problem and not just put a Band-Aid on it.
As we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this year, it is important for us to remember some of the key statements of Martin Luther. One of those statements is on the concept of freedom. Luther said in his most famous treatise On the Freedom of the Christian, in 1520: “The Christian individual is a completely free lord of all, subject to none. The Christian individual is a completely dutiful servant of all, subject to all.“
These two statements may seem to contradict one another, but, in fact, they encapsulate the complete picture of what we as Christians call freedom.