By Paul Koch –
When the Catechism asks “What does this mean?” in response to the third article of the Creed the answer Luther gives is perhaps one of the most profound words for our lives. In fact, while the faith is always under attack I believe it is this particular confession of the church that is on the front line.
Let us review:
The Third Article
I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.
What does this mean?
I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith: in which Christian Church he daily and richly forgives all sins to me and all believers, and will at the last day raise up me and all the dead, and give unto me and all believers in Christ eternal life. This is most certainly true.
Now while this is a powerful word that puts restraints on the enthusiasts who seek to separate the Spirit from the means of grace it also serves as a reminder (even an exhortation?) for us all about this thing we call “Church.”
Just as the Lord has gathered me to himself (because I could not do it even if I had wanted to) so also he gathers His gathered ones together. My God won’t allow us to be an island by ourselves. Those who are called by the gospel are called into a community.
Now I know this is all very remedial. We get it, we are part of the Body of Christ and that Body has many members, etc. But the more I ponder these words the more I am convinced that this gathering together goes beyond being a place where the Word is proclaimed and the gifts are given. To oversimplify it, we are simply better together. In the church and in life everywhere.
I’ll give you two examples of what I mean.
First, my wife. Now without getting overly sappy or start quoting Jerry Maguire (you complete me), she simply makes me a better person. A better father, friend, pastor, citizen, etc. Where I tend to get consumed with the narrow focus of my job she is there to remind me of the more expansive realities of life. Her care and love enable me to be more bold when I need to be and more reserved when it is called for. I am simply better with her as my bride!
Second, my friends. I have posted before about friendship, in fact it is a subject that I think deserves much more time in our day and age. I don’t have a lot of friends but the ones I do have I would do anything for. I can actually feel it if I haven’t spent much time with my friends. Their input and correction for my life is invaluable. Their encouragement and cheers lift my spirits. They provide a safe place for me to speak my mind, to be wrong, to second guess, and I’m simply better for it.
My point is this; part of the gifts that our Lord has given us, a gift that goes right along side the Word and the Sacraments is each other. The relationships we have; our spouses, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ are wonderful gifts of God. We have been gathered into each others lives and when we are together we are better.
It’s not just that we are better equipped to overcome obstacles or achieve greatness. No, Creation itself is better when we are together, it is more beautiful and more full of joy. Fight then for your friends, embrace your lovers, and drink deep of the gifts of God!