By Father Peter Farrington
“Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” What is the Church for? The Tasks
In part 1 “What Is The Church For? | The Business”, then we learned in Part 2 “What the Scripture teach us about the Church“. and in Part 3, we discovered the role of the Community.
What are these good works that the members of the Church should be equipped to perform? Our Lord speaks of the judgement at the end of things and tells us what we will be asked about. He says himself…Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, ‘Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I hungered, and ye gave Me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took Me in; naked, and ye clothed Me; I was sick, and ye visited Me; I was in prison, and ye came unto Me.’
“If our congregations are places of discord, tension, and frustration, then we are not living the life of Christ together.” What is the Church for? The Tasks
The Tasks | The Good Samaritan
The Fathers say of this passage that we find Christ himself in every poor man we feed when he is hungry or drink when he is thirsty. Shall we say that he means only that we should care for other Christians? It seems to me that the parable of the Good Samaritan is intended to demolish any such views. A lawyer asked our Lord what he should do to inherit eternal life.
He knew that the commandments of God were summed up in the words, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbor as thyself. But we are told that he wanted to justify himself and so he asked Jesus who his neighbour was, just who was it that he was obliged to love as he loved himself.
And so our Lord told the parable of the Good Samaritan, where a man was injured by thieves, and was ignored by his own countrymen, and assisted only by someone with whom there was a history of conflict and tension. What does he say to us, about the man who had shown mercy to someone he didn’t know and who belonged to a different culture and community? Go and do likewise!
“If the communities in which we are placed receive no benefit from our presence, then we are not living the life of Christ together.” What is the Church for? The Tasks
The Tasks | The Divine Presence
Why should this surprise us if we understand clearly that we are the Body of Christ on earth. Not representing him like some sort of religious franchise, but actually manifesting the divine presence by the indwelling Holy Spirit. If we are to be found doing his work in his will and by his grace then we will be found doing what he was doing. What do we read in the words of Christ himself.
He says that he has …. come to seek and to save the lost. He has come… not to be ministered to, but to serve others, and to give his life as a ransom. He said… I have come to call sinners to repentance. We are surely to be those who minister Christ to the world as the Bread of Life, as the Way, the Truth and the Life, as the well of water springing up to salvation and eternal life.
What is the Church for? It is not for the perpetuation of religion, as if the ritual acts of men were the means of salvation. The Church is called into being not by and for religious activities, but by the indwelling Holy Spirit and the grace of God for the continuing mission and ministry of Christ in the world. The sacraments and services of the Church are not religion but life and grace in the gift of God by the Holy Spirit.
But such a life and such a grace must be lived out if it has been truly received, and if it is not lived out then it has not been received at all.
The Tasks | The Grace Of Christ
Certainly the Church is to minister to her own members, both spiritually and practically, but the life of the Church is given for the performance of good works in the world, and to the least. It is given so that we might be and become those who show mercy, the mercy of God, to those who are in the society in which we are placed, our neighbourhoods, our towns, our cities.
What is the good we are doing? Will we be commended at the end of days? Will those among whom we live speak up on our behalf at the last judgement? Do we make a difference to the people among whom God has placed us, and for whom God wishes us to give our lives in service in the name and grace of Christ?
“If we are so taken up with practical matters that our spiritual life takes second or third place, then we are not living the life of Christ together.” What is the Church for? The Tasks
The Tasks | The Life Of Christ
If our congregations are places of discord, tension and frustration then we are not yet living the life of Christ together. If the communities in which we are placed receive no benefit from our presence then we are not yet living the life of Christ together. If we are so taken up with practical matters that our spiritual life takes second or third place then we are not yet living the life of Christ together.
And if there are few signs of growth, if there are not many who are added daily, and if indeed we are losing many of our own, then we must honestly and sincerely ask ourselves why this should be and whether we are not yet the community of saints that God desires us to be.
The Tasks | The World
What is the Church for? It is for the salvation of the world. It is to be that community of Christ which is so overflowing with grace and the divine life that it cannot help but spend its time and effort, its prayer and service, for the sake of the world outside, in the name of Christ who came himself to seek and save those outside the Church, and continues to do so through those faithful Christian communities who give themselves wholeheartedly in humble obedience to God for the sake of the world.
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