I once attended a seminar with Leonard Sweet who began by greeting us, good morning saints. And after a pause, good morning sinners. Which do you most easily identify with: Saint or Sinner?
People are hurt in church life. It shouldn’t be like that but people in the church aren’t perfect, only forgiven. At Greyfriars we seek to be a spiritually healthy church, but we need to get real about the nature of the church and acknowledge we don’t always meet that aim.
Michael Griffins gave an accurate image when he referred to the church as Cinderella with amnesia. The church is called to be the radiant bride of Christ but seems to have forgotten and is often found in rags. Jesus understood this tension when he washed his disciples’ feet but not their heads or hands. Like his disciples, the church is clean but walking in this world her feet get dirty.
The church is a great idea, but has one really obvious flaw – people. Lumpy bumpy people. People with flaws and foibles. Someone has said, if you ever find a perfect church don’t join it, you would spoil it! At times we might be disappointed with the church, but if we remember she is both saint and sinner we won’t be surprised by this. The people of Israel began to grumble soon after they left Egypt. The people of Jesus’ day took offense at him and crowds deserted him. The New Testament letters reveal problems people had in the early church.
People just can’t seem to help themselves! Thankfully God is willing to help us. In our reading today we see God has enriched us in every way through Christ, we lack no spiritual gift, God will keep us strong to the end and God who calls us into his church family is faithful. God himself has taken the initiative to do something about our fallen, broken humanity. God has given his Son Jesus to die for us, so our sins could be forgiven. God has begun a process of making us holy. God has made our lives a construction zone as he works in us to make us more like Jesus. And like any construction zone there are hazards and dangers, things that are a bit unstable and still need worked on.
When we get real about the church we recognise: as sinners, the church has dirty feet, sometimes acts like Cinderella with amnesia and because of this doesn’t live up to what we expect; as saints we have a high calling from God who is working on us by the power of his Holy Spirit. Don’t be disheartened that others in the church are not always the saints we hope they may be or that you are not yet the saint God calls you to be – God has not finished with us yet.
God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. (2 Thessalonians 2:13)
What encourages you most about the church?
Have you ever been hurt by something that happened at church? How did you respond - as a saint who forgives or as a sinner who retaliates?
Rev John Malcolm