Friday, December 5, 2008

The Body of Christ

Ephes. 1:15-23 (ESV)
For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, [16] I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, [17] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, [18] having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, [19] and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might [20] that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, [21] far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. [22] And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, [23] which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Paul is just a little exuberant here. He rejoices in the faith of others and prays for them. Why? Perhaps we lose sight of this a little too much these days. The Church is a body, it is the body of Christ. Christ isn’t personal in the sense that he belongs only to you. In fact you belong to Him. The Church has an organic reality to it. This is why we talk about believing in the “Communion of Saints.” Christ is our head, and we are joined together as one body. These days we are often overly concerned with numbers in our own parish, numbers in our Synod. We lose sight of the Christian body as a whole. Mission projects seem a distant reality. We don’t think much about what is going on in Sweden, Norway, Germany, Russia, India or Africa with the church. Here we see the church dying or so we think. We begin to wonder what we can do to revive it here.
Truth is every time we go to communion; we commune not only with Jesus, but with those at the Altar with us. And not just those who are in the same sanctuary we share on Sunday mornings. We commune with all the saints communing with Christ, past, future and present. It is an eternal and infinite reality that pushes past all borders of time and space, because we commune with Christ who is God, the fullness of him who fills all in all. What is happening to the church around the world is what is happening to us. We have reason to rejoice with the angels over African converts, just as they have reason to mourn the decline of the church in the west. If part of the body hurts the whole body hurts. If part of the body rejoices the whole body rejoices.
The future of the church may look pretty dire to us in the west. I don’t know. I suppose there are always reasons to be pessimistic about the life of the church if you want to be pessimistic. I would rather rejoice with the angels over the few converts I see here and there in my neck of the woods. But if I really want to buoy my sentiments I look to Africa. I suppose Africa has more sentimental value for me than places like India and China where the church is experiencing similar growth, because of the missionary work my dad did in Botswana, where I too had the privilege of living. I rejoice over Obare, Tswaedi, and Elisa through whose leadership so many are coming to the faith. And then I don’t despair. I pray. I give thanks for them. And I pray for similar leadership here. Knowing there really isn’t anything I can do, but do what I have been given to do. Preach the Gospel, and administer the sacraments.


Rudi said...

Thanks for bringing me back to reality. We in the West are not THE CHURCH, but only a member of the body. We might be sick, but it is not terminal.

Bror Erickson said...

Exactly right. We are not THE CHURCH, but we are certainly part of it. God sustains his church, sending his spirit where and when he pleases.