That’s the question on everyone’s mind. We’re a little church in a little town in a world that’s moved on. The kids move out. The morals keep changing. We don’t fit. Even in town we’re the grumpy church. What are we here for? And really, how much longer will it last?
We all want our church to endure. The problem is, it’s so easy to lose sight of why. When we forget what we’re here for, the only thing left to talk about is what we’re here against. We’re the church that won’t commune your Methodist son-in-law. We’re the church that won’t marry your lesbian cousin and her partner. We’re the church that even has a problem with that stirring and totally-not-for-profit movie “God Exists And You’re A Dumb Meany 2: Electric Boogaloo”. St. Paul Lutheran Church, if you hate what we hate please join us.
I understand the temptation to loosen the standards. Ease off the law just a little bit. Stop being so picky. You can empty the church of everything offensive, but that just leaves an empty room. Not being offensive isn’t the same thing as having something to offer. It still doesn’t answer the question. What are we here for?
Paul understands the frustration. A law that he himself falls short of. A people unsatisfied. A church on the brink of extinction even in its infancy. Corinth was a city that struggled with all of the same issues we know today. A declining morality. A people divided. A suffering congregation. What were they here for? He answers.
For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. – 1 Corinthians 1:22–25
We preach Christ crucified. We’re here to give Jesus to sinners. That’s why we maintain the law. That’s why we don’t bend on it one iota or dot. We give Jesus to sinners who suffer under the burden of the law because the law isn’t the thing that’s killing us, it’s just the name for it. It diagnoses the disease God calls sin. We have the answer. The cure. The life. Christ crucified for you for the forgiveness of all your sins. We’re here to give that to you.
We’re the grumpy church who maintains the law, even when we fall short of it and look like hypocrites, because that’s the whole point. Jesus died for us to forgive us every sin. Jesus died for all. We’re here to give that gift to every last sinner in need.
What are we here for? When that awful little thought crosses into your mind, answer it. We give Jesus to sinners. That doesn’t always seem like much, but it’s the answer to every single murmured question and secret fear and stupid insecurity we carry around with us whether we’re willing to admit it or not. We can speak openly about every evil and every pain because we know that our God gave His life to give us the answer, the hope, the victory. We’re here because Jesus is actually here to help you. He stands in Word and Sacrament between you and every bit of guilt and shame, every sleepless night, every unanswered question, and death and hell themselves. He’s here to help. We’re here because we need Him.
As far as how much longer, we’ll let God worry about that, because right now all I see is a need for salvation met by the hope of a God who died to make us live. We have open doors and plenty of room for more to stumble and crawl in with no other choice, be carried by a neighbor in love, or even just invited. We’re the “Jesus for sinners” church. We’re here for sinners. We’re here for you.