Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Growth by taking away

 There’s something hidden at work when we come to church.  Something underneath the surface.  As we speak the words of the liturgy back and forth to one another, something else is going on.  As we hear the Scriptures read, there is an underlying reality.  As pastor preaches, someone else is speaking.  As the Sacrament is received, we get something more than wine and bread.

The hidden “thing” at work of course isn’t a thing at all, but rather a He.  God hides Himself away even in our worship, working silently but surely through His Word as it is spoken and heard.  Working according to His promise through His Sacrament.  We sometimes think that we have come to church to praise God and to add to His glory.  The reality is that through worship He adds to us.

The thing that intrigues me, then, is when well-intentioned people suggest that perhaps we could grow as a church if we were to just take something away.  Cut down on the sermon time.  Don’t serve communion every week.  Take away some of the more difficult portions of God’s Word, the more difficult doctrines, and we’d grow.

Hmmm . . . they might be on to something.  So let’s try an experiment.  We’ll take two plants.  Both are planted in a pot full of rich, fertile soil.  Both will receive the proper amount of water for plant health, and at identical intervals.  One we’ll put in a nice, sunny spot . . . and the other lock in a dark corner of the basement.

No . . . no.  You're right.  It doesn't work that way, does it?  Growth comes not for people nor plants by robbing them of the Light.  Rather than hiding away the light and robbing people of its growing powers, we uphold the things that give us His light, boldly and cheerfully and without hesitation encouraging others to see Christ’s light in action and to praise God for when it shines.

A good friend of mine puts it this way, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

In worship, Christ gives His light through many different words and actions, and through each of those actions His light gives holy illumination to everyone in His house, both neighbor and family member alike.  Don’t be fooled by the lie that by dimming His light we will grow.  Rather let’s give His growth-giving light of forgiveness and life every opportunity to shine forth.  For ourselves and for others.  

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