Monday, January 27, 2014


      An old friend passed away last week.  I wasn't surprised.  She was elderly when I met her and a bit frail.  With her obituary in front of me I did the math.  Ack!  
    When we first met my friend was younger than I am now.  Elderly?  Not how I see myself!

   Also last week, I was away on holiday so attended a different church.  After all these years (see above)  I'm something of a "professional" church-goer.  When I worship with another congregation I'm alert to what they do well, what they do differently from us, what works for me as a guest to the congregation, what my congregation could learn from them.
     In this case I received a warm welcome, was handed a bulletin that laid out the service in detail.  I enjoyed the preaching and the choir.  People talked to us in the coffee hour after service.  This congregation scored high on my check list. 
     But not all was rosy.  They are running a deficit.  There is angst among the members over the refurbishing of the sanctuary. Changes to a long time social event have ruffled some feathers.
   I got a glimpse of this congregation, the obvious, external marks of their fellowship.  I wonder if what I saw is how they see themselves.

   Back at SPPC I went to Bible Study, chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation, seven letters to seven churches.  Each of these congregations has a vision of itself -- poor or powerful, faithful or persecuted, lively or suffering.  But these self-definitions are incomplete. Christ sees beneath the facade.  He commends them for hard work, for faithfulness, for perseverance and for patience. He also condemns where complacency or immorality or heresy have crept in.  
     In calling these seven churches to account, Christ gives us the marks of an ideal church:
 Love for Christ
 Suffering for Christ
 Committed to Truth
 Dedicate to Mission

   As individuals or as congregations, our self-image does not tell the whole story.  The exterior we show to the world is incomplete.  But Christ knows our secrets, sees into our hearts and will hold us to account.  As Paul reminds us in Romans 3: 23  "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God."  Yet by grace, through Jesus Christ, we are redeemed.  Thanks be to God.


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