Sunday, May 7, 2017

Church Write-Up: The Door, the Trial, and the Church of Humans

I attended the traditional Lutheran service this morning.  When I quote a Scriptural passage, it will be from whatever English translation the bulletin was using.  Here are some thoughts.

A.  One of the Scripture readings was from John 10:1-10.  The passage slightly confused me, particularly in its usage of the “door” metaphor.  Jesus says that thieves and robbers do not use the door but climb into the sheepfold another way.  Jesus, however, enters by the door, and his sheep follow him when he leads them out because his sheep recognize his voice.  But then Jesus says that he himself is the door and those who enter by him will be saved and enjoy the pasture.  Jesus contrasts himself with the thieves and robbers, whom his sheep did not heed.  Jesus finally mentions a thief who comes in to kill and destroy, whereas Jesus came so that his sheep could have abundant life.

The thieves and robbers did not enter the door, who is Jesus.  Is this a criticism of non-Christian teachers, meaning teachers who rejected Christ?

There are points that I think I understand in this passage, but I am a little unclear about the “door.”  Does the door consistently represent Jesus in this passage?  It just seems to me that the metaphor is being used in different ways.  I would not be surprised if the themes overlapped, though.

I can probably look this up.  But reading this passage at church this morning reminded me of how I always have something more to learn about the Bible.

B.  Another Scripture reading was from I Peter 2:19-25.  V 23 stood out to me: “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”

I thought about books and TV shows, and I often admire the characters who stand up for themselves when they are challenged, or who threaten bullies who themselves are on a power trip.  V 23 somewhat challenges this sentiment within me.  Still, I can identify with elements of v 23: of actually loving those who persecute, as opposed to reviling and threatening.

At the same time, as I said in this post a while back, Jesus stood up for righteousness throughout his ordeals, so he was not a doormat.  That included challenging the powers that be, and it also included love for enemies.

C.  The main text of the service was Acts 2:42-47.  The pastor said that the early church had the apostle’s teaching, fellowship, prayer, and the sacraments (which is probably how he is interpreting the “breaking of bread” in the passage—-as holy communion).  He said that, when we are looking for a church, we should seek one that has those elements.  He also observed that many people crowd into megachurches because they are looking for something to fill them.  They have a hunger that the preacher’s powerful personality cannot by itself satisfy.  They are looking for teaching.

The pastor noted v 47, which states that “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”  The pastor said that the Lord has to build the church, for humans left to their own devices will lead the church to destruction, as Martin Luther said.  Humans, after all, have their pride and preferences, which lead to conflict and disagreement.

After hearing this, my thought to myself was, “Do I really believe this?”  There are plenty of non-Christian groups that do well; and there are plenty of Christian groups that suffer through divisions.  This is not to suggest that non-Christian groups are better than Christian groups.  I just wonder, though, if there is more to human nature than “Human nature is bad.”  Still, speaking for myself personally, I identify with the pastor’s characterization of human nature, at least when it comes to myself.

I thought recently about Christians who treated me in, well, a less-than-Christian manner.  I am tempted to declare that they are not real Christians.  But who am I to say that, just because they do not like me, they have no right to fulfill their spiritual needs?  The pastor’s sermon this morning reinforced whatever charitable sentiments I have.

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