My parents taught me the old “here is the church, here is the steeple” thing a long time ago. The “open the doors and see all the people” stuff is getting harder to swallow. Church attendance is at an all time low and I have been talking on these pages about how there seem to be some in our midst that want to whittle that dwindling number down even more. There is a lot of “classifying sins to see which should lead to exclusion”. Sometimes the sins that lead to exclusion are disagreeing with the Pastor over things that years ago would have been considered “adiaphora”. That is a great word that needs to be studied. Adiaphora are things neither commanded nor forbidden in the Word of God.”
The church is a place for sinners and I get really nervous when folks get uppity and want to remove them. Here is a portion of a paper by Herman Sasse…………….
Ubi Christus, ibi ecclesia. “Where Christ is, there ist he church.” In this word one of the oldest churchfathers [Ignatius of Antioch] spoke of the mystery of the church. It also sums up Luther’s faith in the church. “Where Christ is, there is the church.” It’s not the power of our faith, nor the holiness of our life. When the church is called a holy nation, a communion of saints, that’s not to be understood in the way it has often been understood in church history: The church should be a holy people, therefore only the holy should belong to her and away with all who are not holy. The honor of Christ demands it. Therefore the worst sinners should be removed from her fellowship. You then begin to classify the sins to determine which ones should lead to exclusion. How often hasn’t that been attempted both in times past and in recent times. How imposing was this strictness of the ancient church at times and more recently as people sought to create a holy and pure church. Or, think of the old Donatists, who demanded that at least the clergy be free of mortal sin. But whenever there has been that attempt to create an ideal people, the result has been a bitter disappointment. The community of saints turned into a community of Pharisees.
Luther drew a thick line through all these efforts. He showed (and this is one of the great benefits of his thinking about the church) that here there is involved quite a false idea about the honor of Christ. If the special work of Christ is his work of salvation, it certainly doesn’t honor him if he is only to be seen among the very clean. He is honored when he is among sinners. In a pastoral letter to his brother-in-orders, Georg Spenlein on April 8, 1516, the young Luther wrote what was the most liberating letter of the pastor Luther: “Learn Christ and especially him crucified. Learn to praise him and despair of yourself. Then say to him: Dear Lord Christ, you are my righteousness, I am your sin. You have taken what is mine and given me what is yours… Watch that you don’t ever want to be so pure that you no longer seem to be a sinner, or want to be one. Christ dwells only in sinners. He came down from heaven where he was with the righteous in order to dwell with sinners.”
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