“For me, to live is Christ…”
The late Dr. George Forell, in his book The Proclamation of the Gospel in a Pluralistic World, outlines three levels of religious commitment.
With regard to the Bible, for example, those on the first level say it is an important book but it is rarely if ever read.
A second-level view is that it is a good book. When it is read, it is often to search out axioms or moral principles for living.
A minority share the third level view; the Bible is the inspired Word of God, through which the Holy Spirit works to create a living faith in Christ. They read the Scriptures regularly and gather with others to hear the Word of God proclaimed.
Another area which Dr. Forell describes is the Church.
On one level a person says, “I was raised a Lutheran.” “Going to church” is a matter of pedigree, a religious necessity.
On the second level, the majority, say the church is where we learn about right and wrong. For them, “going to church” is a gathering of the morally concerned. The Church is a vehicle to attempt a moral life.
The third level, a minority, sees the Church as a body of believers, the people of God, summoned through the Gospel to bring the world to the Cross, that there they might know their Savior. They don’t “go to church”, they are the Church; the gathering of the forgiven who have been “called and sanctified” in faith through Jesus Christ.
It is to this third level that our Lord Jesus called the Twelve and to which He calls you and me through Word and sacrament. Followers, disciples, believers, whatever words we use, are ordinary people made extraordinary by the love and grace of God. These people do not “go to church” as if it was simply one more event on the weekly calendar. For them, as St. Paul has written, “to live is Christ.” By lives devoted to thanksgiving, praise and love of others, they seek to show what and Who they believe is really worth living for.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”