We have churches to attend for a real reason.
Last Sunday afternoon, it was a joyful occasion for my family to attend an anniversary. It was the 150th year of the founding of a congregation of Christ’s church near my childhood home. Family members, relatives and friends, have been part of Immanuel Lutheran Church of Bremen, Kansas for much, or even all, of their lives. It was great to visit many of them while there.
The greatest joy, though, came in hearing together promises from God’s Word. The theme for the congregation’s weekend of celebration was “O God, Our Help in Ages Past, Our Hope for Years to Come.” These are words from a familiar hymn by Isaac Watts.
The pastor who delivered the sermon during that afternoon service kept that theme in mind. At the same time he also proclaimed to us the future heavenly home that is even now prepared for believers in the saving work the Savior Jesus did for us when He entered this world.
A congregation that is blessed to have a history which endures for a century and a half also has opportunity on occasions like this to remember both joys and sorrows. Births, baptisms, confirmations, weddings, deaths and funerals. Family joys, sorrows, even tragedies. Through them all, the grace of the eternal Son of God has blessed, sustained, and strengthened.
The pastor’s sermon had as its text words from Revelation chapter 21, including these: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (verses 3-4).
Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, has promised to be with His church as it gathers. He abides with His church through the preaching of the Gospel for the forgiveness of our sin through His death on a cross. It is the Gospel that promises the resurrection of our bodies in His resurrection for our eternal life with Him. Jesus is with us uniting us to Himself in the gift of Holy Baptism. Jesus is with us at His table in His Supper feeding us with His body and blood for our forgiveness, life, and salvation. These are gifts which give us faith and keep us in the faith and prepare us for our heavenly home.
Congregations of the church in this world might sometimes have a long history, sometimes a brief history. Still, just as Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, His church endures. We have His promise that as we are built on the rock of the true confession of His name and His work for us, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against” His church (Matthew 16:18).