WE go to church to get the gifts God wants to give. Mercy, forgiveness, peace, love and all of these are given that they might be given away. Perhaps the reason that church attendance is waning is that we have raised up a generation of folks who think worship is something we do for God rather than gifts God gives us so that we can serve our neighbor. Love for God and love for the neighbor are of a piece like the seamless garment of the Savior and you can’t have one without the other.
Here is a great question from Hermann Sasse. How can a member of the Body of Christ be destitute? Well they can be destitute when we out of necessity or under the guise of financial responsibility choose to allow them to be. They can be destitute when we parse the meaning of mercy and add the well meaning images of self reliance and wring our hands over how to help those who need help, in ways that do not shame, demoralize, sap initiative, and create dependency. The great example of mercy for me has always been Romans 5 : 6 “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Another translation is “while we were helpless”. I wonder if the inner conversation of the Trinity was concerned about shaming, demoralizing, sapping initiative, or creating dependency in the world of sinful, helpless. humanity?
Here is a portion from Sasse…………………..
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction.” (James 1:27) Sacrificial service of the poor, sick and forsaken, arises from the living Divine Service. In the great cities of the ancient world, in which the church was great, there were as many individual, destitute people as at any other time of history. But those who belonged to the church were not deserted. They were not alone. How can a member of the Body of Christ be destitute? And when it happens with us, when it would be different for us, when we no longer visit the widows and orphans, the poor and the sick, the despairing and the worrying, when we will not at least visit the members of Christ’s body who live alone somewhere in the world, with our thoughts and gifts, and include them in our prayers, then our hearing of the word of God has gone bad. Then our Divine Service will not be a pure and undefiled Divine Service, but, as the patient words of James say, a self-deception.