Babies in Church (part III): The unattractive body

19 May

For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.—Isaiah 53:2, NASB

No one comes to the Father except through the visible, concrete, enfleshed person named Jesus Christ.  Likewise no one comes to the Father except through the visible, concrete, enfleshed body of Christ, His Church. 

With Jesus, there was nothing about Him, externally at least, that should have attracted us to Him.  He was rather unspectacular, ordinary, simple – just like the Church.  It was not His physical appearance, “ancient historical feel”, relevance, ability to capture and keep great numbers, aesthetic beauty, etc. that drew the sheep to Him.  Likewise for His body, the Church.    

What was and is it then that drew and draws people to Jesus, and into Jesus – and by extension, His body?  Perhaps the miracles?  It was not these, but rather what those things pointed towards.  It was who He was – and the overflow of who He was – in His words and deeds – that drew persons to follow Christ.  In Him, the sheep found not a deceiver, liar, or thief, but the One who in words and deeds fulfilled the narrative of the Divine Drama (hat tip: Harry Wendt) of God’s chosen people, and their mission to the world. 

It is only the words that Christ spoke and lived out by which the faithful “word-treasuring” sheep identified their shepherd – and by which they themselves – by remembering and keeping such words – are identified as the Church.

Put simply, the eyes of child-faith see the visible, concrete, enfleshed Church wherever it is, although it is simultaneously “hidden” under the cross (i.e. it is unspectacular, ordinary, simple).  Faith sees this Church as God’s people worship, pray, and meditate on the Scriptures, saying “Amen” and confessing the words that have been put on their lips from above.  Faith also sees that these gather around Jesus’ body and blood (by which the one Church is made one by the One) which is also visible, concrete, enfleshed – though hidden much like the Church itself.

It is true though, that even the eyes of those in the world, from the outside, notice one “Christian Church” (probably often with Rome and the Pope in the forefront of the minds of those most worldly wise), albeit in a less deep, but nevertheless truly discernible, sense: namely, a community gathered together to worship the historical person named Jesus Christ (and no other earthly characters) who they say brings forgiveness, life, and salvation (among other things, depending on the emphases of the groups). It is something like this truth (i.e. about the visible nature of Christendom) I believe, along with strong religious, cultural, and national feelings, that often gives more Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox conceptions of the visible Church their power in the minds of their many adherents.  

But really, in the end, it is all so simple, so ordinary, so unspectacularso Lutheran.

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Posted by on May 19, 2009 in Uncategorized


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