By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston
“Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful. If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us. While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best!”—2 Corinthians 4:5-12 (MSG)
Contrary to public opinion, the church is not built for our pleasure, but it was built for God’s purpose. Often, we think the church is as fragile as a piece of glass, but I believe the church is standing on a firm foundation, because God’s church is not defined by brick and mortar. The church is made and defined by the people who are committing their lives to Jesus Christ and are willing to be servants on behalf of the Lord in their community and wherever they find themselves.
The late Rev. Bill Self has described it this way, namely, “The church has withstood Roman imperialism, the excesses of the Reformers, wars and rumors of wars, and heresies in each generation. It can withstand anything our generation can throw at it, too. The church has been victimized by unprepared and selfish clergy, tone-deaf musicians, manipulative laity, conflictive bishops and greedy politicians. The church has survived!”
The church has survived because the Holy Spirit comes alongside to provide spiritual depth, social justice and community involvement. When things are going to happen all around us, God uses the church to make the difference. The church is built for God’s purpose.
A close reading of our historical record would show that when God does anything in the world, he is doing it through the church. When God wants to make something really known, he shares the message through the church. When God wants people to be together and to know how they can strive together, he starts at the church, because that’s the place where the Holy Spirit gathers. That’s where God meets us at our place of need.
If the church was built for God’s purpose, let’s be clear on what the church is not. The church was not built for our pleasure. There is not a single living person who is in such great shape that he or she does not need the grace of Christ in their lives. All of us are sinners saved by the grace of Almighty God. We bear this image of the living God; this treasure, this light, this useful understanding of who we are and who God’s world is to be. We are entrusted with more than we ever could dream of.
We celebrate our Risen Savior on Easter Sunday, that day when everything changed. That day that Christ emerged from the darkness of death into the beautiful light of life everlasting. We recognize that the hope of the resurrection is that the world is not just where Jesus died, but this world is where Jesus lives.
The power that raised Jesus from the dead can raise us up from despair, disillusionment and defeat. We proclaim Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, the one who wipes away the tears from all faces, the one for whom we have waited.
Paul reminds us that we have this treasure that is wrapped up in these clay jars. The light and the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ, wrapped up in this human flesh, that sometimes can be chipped, sometimes can be cracked, sometimes finds itself ineffective and limited and sometimes even compromised. But yet, he blesses us by placing within us, as fragile as we may seem, something that is wonderful and sweet.
This is the good news! This is the gospel message that fuels us for the sacred work of fulfilling God’s mission. We know the effort is worthwhile as our lives are filled with the light of Christ, all bright and beautiful.
The church is not built for our pleasure. We are proclaimers of a message, the message of Jesus the Christ that says disciples are needed. People are needing to know the way—how they can be the people God has called them to be.
The church, God’s church, is built for God’s purpose. In a time when we overestimate the danger and obstacles before us, and underestimate our ability to cope, serving through the church is a matter of the call and the claim of God on your life. The only way for the church to thrive, the only way we will be able to be what God has called us to be, is to know that God has called his disciples to serve. To give of their time, talents, gifts, service and witness.
As we celebrate in this Easter season, may we remain steadfast in our faith and recommit with hope and gladness to living into our mission for the sake of Christ. Let us commemorate and celebrate, let us lift up holy hands to the one who tells us that the church was built for God’s purpose—for God’s hope. I may think I’m on sinking sand, but the Holy Spirit says on Christ the solid rock we stand.
The church is not built for our pleasure. The church of our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, was built for God’s purpose.