To Church or not to Church

John 20: 19-31

StMarksLiving in our times of self, it seems that via the media, many people say we do not need traditional churches, and in a sense
O.K. it is true that going to church is not a requirement of salvation. But the one’s I hear on talk back radio saying to “get rid of the church because it’s not relevant” are mainly non-Christians.

Non-Christians who see no need for organised church and yet I would imagine still see the need for the Christian schools and the Christian hospitals because make no mistake if they were closed, whatever our current billion or so deficit is now, without these church run facilities, that deficit would look like chicken feed.

I think that’s something the church knockers miss. Never mind that it’s the churches that run many op shops for the short of cash. The churches that many people knock on the door for a hand for money to buy food and petrol.  And the churches that run many hostels that provide food and shelter to the homeless and needy.

I would hope that even the harshest critic could see some benefit of the churches still being in our society.

Real benefits, but real benefits that are the offshoot of a greater reality of which John emphases in his Gospel writings, and today’s closing Gospel verses Verses of 30 & 31 for all intensive purposes could be titled “The purpose of this book.”

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name”.

People commonly and mistakenly think that biblical books were written mainly to provide rules for godly living.

But here John, the author of this Gospel, clearly states its purpose and summarises its central message, and God Speaking through John, announces that the core message is the Good News that Jesus is His Son and that by His name; we have life and salvation, and we can imagine John writing the Gospel with the words on his lips and the desire in his mind and the prayer in his heart that he  “Gladly share this Good News, O God, that others may believe and live.”

And if we look at those closing verses of 30 & 31, in being the conclusion of the previous paragraphs, we see that John, and all followers of Jesus are sent out upon their task in the power of the Holy Spirit, and equipped with their own story in relation to being saved in Christ as a confession of their faith, says all that need to be said.

Jesus is our life, and in Jesus Christians although different in many or all ways, we stand united around Jesus in His church and when we think of all these different buildings this morning housing Christians of other denominations, we see not bricks and mortar, but see and receive in the mission of Jesus himself, which through the Spirit, is perpetuated in the mission of the church; and then the amazing reality that the church by its faith is related to Christ as Christ is to God.

And if that’s not amazing enough, another reality is that In when Jesus when he walked this earth-those people were not confronted by just a Jewish rabbi, but by God himself, and so then following, like to the apostles, the commission, the gift of the spirit and the authority are given to the apostolic church.

The Christian churches, our church that then follow in the apostolic mission of the church, where the world is not confronted merely by a human institution, but by Jesus the Son of God, and when we think of that, we see why it is so important to follow God’s scripture and not that of our own  making because as Jesus in his ministry was entirely dependent upon and obedient to God the Father, who sealed and sanctified him, so are the churches the apostolic church by virtue of being commissioned by Christ, and sanctified because  Jesus breathed the Spirit into it.

Now I would think that if I rang up a radio station and said all this on behalf of our gathering I would reckon the rest of the show would be taken up with all soughts of accusations with the old favourite sure to be there of “what a bunch of hypocrites. “

And that would be true if we thought we were the church and not Christ’s.

And it would be true if we thought we were perfect and like not that of Christ.

Hypocrites-no. Sinners- yes. Forgiven in Christ alone and from no part of our own-absolutely.

Yes the Church is still a big deal, because Christ is the deal and though we as individuals may not glow like the risen Christ before the apostles, we glow in the fact that those physical scars that his risen body still carried from His time of the cross were established for us. The scars He endured in death and still carried after His resurrection that we with our own scare tissue can in our work places and homes not be judgmental and intolerant, but rather like Jesus who when confronted by doubting Thomas, did not tell him of or ridicule him, but remained with him, taught and nurtured him and in doing so, talked of you: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.”

That’s some high praise of you “guys”. It may not seem like when God said that King David was a man after his own heart, but it’s up there.

Blessed are you because you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who died for your sins that you are forgiven and have eternal life.

And forgiven you are, forgiven so that you need not dwell on past sins. Forgiven so you not doubt the word of God, but forgiven that you here, no matter the scars you carry or the burdens you bear, blessed are you for you now have seen the Lord. Seen the Lord come to you when at your worst. Seen the Lord carry you when you could not carry yourself, and seen the holy and powerful Lord reduce Himself to be treated like a criminal and hung from the cross that sinners like you and me, that forgiven sinners like you and me not dwell in our own mortality, but dwell in the Lord’s immortality, raise our heads and cry “He is risen”, Yes he has risen indeed as too will you and those who put their faith in Him.

Not the words of insincere hypocrites, but the genuine and sincere witness of the church, of you and of me that we are blessed to take to the world. Amen.