What hurts church people
“And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.” —Acts 2:47b
What hurts church people is the sight of empty pews on a Sunday morning. Non-churchgoers hurt, too. Their needs aren’t meant by what church offers.
Both churched and non-churched people hear this: “An hour or so in worship really does not matter that much to me.” This may sound like a complaint, but it is also pain. It’s a loss.
Martin Luther explains what church and non-churchgoers can hear. In the third article of the Apostles’ Creed in his Small Catechism, Luther writes, “We cannot believe by our own reason or strength; it is by the Holy Spirit that one comes to believe.”
What is Luther saying? He says the Holy Spirit makes worship well…worship. In other words, we ‘get Jesus’ not on our own, but through the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit.
How do we experience the Holy Spirit? One great way this happens is in a gathering or a group because this gathering or group has a specific goal—to make the Holy Spirit known.
This gathering or group doesn’t have to meet in the same location, the same set or regulated space. As we will learn Sunday, this gathering or group—this space called church is never in one set location. Said simply, “church” is not a place; church is a people.
Arland J. Hultgren, Professor Emeritus of New Testament at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN says, “The Christian faith is born and nurtured where people share in worship through Word, gesture, and earthly means such as water, bread, wine, and the tactile expressions of mutual care—the smile, the clasp of another’s hand, maybe even an embrace.”
Hultgren doesn’t say this has to happen in a church. Hand holding and hugging can (and do) happen in sanctuaries, yes, but this can also happen in a coffee house, a living room…anywhere people intentionally meet to find, name, and experience the Holy Spirit.
We all need quiet moments in makeshift sanctuaries—our cozy, private corners or our secluded nature settings, but doesn’t it just make sense to get together? The space and place of “church” is changing—or returning—to where it first began for Christians, and that is simply in the company of one another.
Nowhere in Acts 2:42-47 does this text mention a pew, an introit, a hymn, or brass plated collection plates. Let the Holy Spirit be what it has been—free.
Prayer: Three-in-one God, by way of Your Holy Spirit, challenge us all to come together in Your name—not remain part. In a pew or on a park bench, make us one. Amen.