The Church is the body and bride of Christ. And while Paul says that we are holy in Christ’s sight, we don’t always act like it. In this sermon, Greg talks about how difficult it is to hope in the Church, and how we can still strive to be the Bride of Christ.
Colossians 1 has a beautiful hymn about Jesus and his supremacy over all creation. It says that in him all things were created. It goes on to say that he is the head of the body, the Church, so that in everything he might have supremacy. At the center of God’s purpose in the cosmos is the Church, and it is the vehicle by which Jesus’ supremacy comes to creation. But when we look around at what the Church is, we begin to wonder if this is actually true.
It feels like the Church doesn’t fit in this passage. When we look at the cosmos, it is grand and magnificent. The majesty of Christ fills the cosmos, and it is beautiful. The wonders of the universe show the creative and beautiful nature of God. The gospel shares this same creativity and beauty, and parts of the Church share this as well. But when we look at what the Church has done through history, it is easy to become disillusioned with the Church’s role in reestablishing creation.
How can the Church be at the center of God’s purpose for the cosmos? It started out pretty good, with people self-sacrificing and growing the church by acting like Jesus. But when the Church became the official state religion of Rome, things went downhill. Instead of bearing crosses, Christians started bearing swords. Looking back in history, the Church is more often described by things it’s done wrong rather than the things it’s done right. That nasty stuff muddies the water by which the world drinks. While the Church is supposed to be of Christ, it looks more like the world and isn’t fulfilling its purpose of reconciling the world to Christ.
Oftentimes, we don’t see the real Church. And when we don’t see the real Church, it seems like a cruel joke that the Church is supposed to be the vehicle by which Christ reconciles the world to himself. And this talk of the Church in the middle of this hymn just doesn’t seem to fit. Then, we ask ourselves, where is the true Church? We find a small strand of them throughout history, but do we see it in our local church and do we see it in ourselves?
Even though the Church can sometimes be an ink stain on a beautiful dress, God uses us to reconcile creation to himself. He used Abraham, who lied and let men sleep with his wife to save his own hide, to further the Kingdom. He used David, who committed adultery and killed the husband to cover it up. He even uses a donkey to talk to a pagan to accomplish his purpose. What we learn is this: Christ has the supremacy, not the humans of the Church. God stoops to our level and works at our level to fulfill his purpose. It is for this reason that we can remember three key things about being the Church.
The first is that we can have hope. We must never give up when we fall short. And we will fall short. Yet, God keeps showing us endless grace. God shows his supremacy when he uses incomplete humans to accomplish his plans. No matter how dire the Church looks, we just focus on the grace and love that Jesus shows us, and we can have hope for the future.
The second is that opting out of Church is not an option. Many have quit organized religion because it doesn’t look like Jesus. But Jesus died for the Church. Learning how to live with these silly and hypocritical people is how God grows us. We are simply called to love others, and that includes others in organized religion.
The third key is that God can use you. When you look at who God has used in the past, it’s not too far of a stretch for God to use you. He shows his supremacy by using incomplete people to complete his purpose for creation. Nothing can disqualify you as long as you surrender it to God. Strive to be the true Church, and slowly, we can work side by side with God in reconciling creation to himself.
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