The Church Breathes

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The Church breathes. In and out. Gathering in, and then sending out. This is the constant pattern of the Church and this is her life. We are always coming in, and then going out.

We gather in as we gather for the Divine Service, whether that be in a church building, a house, a field, etc. We gather in and we breathe in deep. We breathe in the gifts of God, receiving all that Jesus has to offer us. We receive His forgiveness of sins in the Word of God read and preached, and in the sacraments offered to us according to the institution of Jesus. At Church, all the action is from God to us, Him serving us with His great gifts of forgiveness and life in Christ. Here we are assured that despite the sins that weigh down on our conscience, despite the suffering we face in life, despite the death that we feel in the loss of loved ones, in the illnesses that we face, and the gradual breakdown of our bodies that Jesus Christ has indeed won the victory over sin and death for us. Here we are assured that we are destined for the resurrection of the flesh and the life everlasting as we confess in the Creed. Here we hear the news once again that Jesus is for sinners, and we are the worst of sinners, and so Jesus is for us. Here Jesus makes us His holy ones who have been cleansed by His blood and set apart from the world by His sacrifice on the cross and resurrection on the third day. Here Jesus makes us His priests, His intercessors to stand in prayer in behalf of the Church on earth, in behalf of our Christian brothers and sisters in this space, and in behalf of the world around us and the neighbours that we rub elbows with every day.

And then, the Church exhales, she breathes out, she sends out. Then we are sent out to exhale ourselves. We are sent out with the blessing of Aaron on our heads (“The Lord bless you and keep you,” etc.) and we find that what we have is quickly needed by those who are around us. We sin against our spouse, and our spouse sins against us, we aggravate our children, and our children aggravate us, our neighbours drive us up a wall, and what do we do? Having drawn deeply from the forgiveness, grace, and mercy of Christ, we exhale it out, we speak it, “Please, forgive me.” “I forgive you.” We bump into those who do not know of Christ’s love, who haven’t heard of Christ, or maybe they’re part of our family, our friends, or a close neighbour, and what do we do? What we’ve inhaled from Christ, we exhale and give to others, “Jesus died for you. He is your Saviour.” This is the call of all Christians. ALL Christians. Exhale. What you’ve received, you pass on to others. What you’ve heard, you proclaim, because the fact is, you’ll meet and form a relationship with so many more unbelievers than your pastor ever will, even when he’s beating that pavement to find the unbeliever where they are. All Christians have this great call, to exhale the Word of God to your family, your friends, your co-workers, your neighbours.

And then, it’s Sunday again, and time to once again inhale the Word of God for you, and once again is the sending out to exhale that same Word of God to others around you. And for the pastor, his breathing is in reverse. He spends Sunday exhaling the Word of God to the people God has put him in place to care for. And then, through the week, he inhales that Word of God through his study, his devotions, his prayers, while at the same time exhaling that same Word throughout the week to family, friends, and neighbours. The Church is always in this pattern of breathing in and breathing out, inhaling the Word of God, and exhaling the Word of God. Gathering around God’s Word & sacraments, and then being sent out by the Word & sacraments to our homes and daily lives to pass on all of what we have received.

Your servant in Christ,

Tim Schneider

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