Theologian Michael Battle recently lectured at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Mission, Kansas. He spoke to us of growing up in a culture where he often heard the question, "Do you have personal relationship with Jesus Christ?" In reflecting on that question, he said that an equally important a even more biblically significant question is, "Do you have a corporate relationship with Jesus Christ?"
In our post-Modern age when we are beginning to shed some of the enlightenment emphasis on the individual, this is a "word in due season."
I was reminded of the importance of our corporate relationship with Jesus Christ last Sunday when Bishop Wolfe spoke to the vestry about his concern over the decline in worship attendance in the Diocese of Kansas and across the Church. His concerns resonate with my own! Let me share five reasons why.
• The first three Commandments tell us to love and obey God and to bring others to know him; to put nothing in the place of God; and to show God respect in thought, word, and deed.
• Jesus' summary of the Law tells us to Love God with all our heart, mind, and soul.
• Together, we have entered into and repeatedly reaffirmed our covenant relationship with God in Christ. The Baptismal promises we make for ourselves and on behalf of our children involve the promise to "continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers."
• Our Catechism teaches us that "The duty of all Christians is to follow Christ; to come together week by week for corporate worship; and to work, pray, and give for the spread of the kingdom of God."
• Christianity is meant to be shared. It is a corporate faith and corporate worship is our duty, our joy, and our opportunity to know God in the company of God's covenant people. When we gather for worship we are formed spiritually into Christ's body, nourished with God's grace in Word and Sacrament, and sent back into the world in God's mission "to represent Christ and his Church" and to "bear witness to him wherever we may be." There are many ways to know, love, and serve God. Worship is the first of these ways and, in God's administrative policy, it is not optional. It is who we are and how we live.
So, let us heed the exhortation of the Letter to the Hebrews: "And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching." - Hebrews 10:24-25.
I'll see you in Church!