Church Resurrection Sunday

 

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the Body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:26-27                                                                                                                             

I recently came across a book called Autopsy of a Deceased Church. The title gives you the shivers, doesn’t it? It brings to mind pictures from one of the many forensic shows on these days. A naked cadaver is brightly lit in the middle of a cold examining room. The coroner makes a huge incision down the middle of his chest. He looks at pieces of it under the microscope. Meanwhile, family members are in a waiting room not far away grieving the loss of their loved one.

An autopsy is a sad picture for a church as well: a church consultant sitting in a café casually talking with the last remaining church members one after the other. “So what were the last few years like at… what was the name of your church again?” Each one has a far away look in their eyes as they reflect on the many years that lead to its demise.

  • “I think we forgot why we existed. We didn’t talk much about the Great Commission,” one says.
  • “All I remember is fights over some decision or another the elders made,” another reflects.
  • “We talked a lot but only prayed a little.”
  • “It became all about making the few of us still going, happy. It was all about ‘what I want in a church.’ “

Well, let’s get that image out of our head, and replace it with another… Church Resurrection Sunday. A church on the brink suddenly turns around. God is at work.

As people come in to the service, they are happy to see each other, they smile and exchange hugs. “We may be few but at least we have each other,” they say.

In the prayer and sharing time, one person stands up and says, “Please pray for my co-worker, I explained some of the gospel to him and I would love to see him come to the Lord.” A few others make similar requests.

Then another rises to their feet. “I would like to ask for forgiveness for the way I have behaved the last few years,” and after a bit more explanation of their sin of gossip, they close, “Will you forgive me?” A number of people say “yes” right out loud.

“After many years of ignoring each other,” another jumps in, “my sister in the Lord and I have reconciled and put all our differences behind us.” People begin to clap.

Then they go to prayer and it’s not just the pastor who prays; many contribute by praying aloud. He has to shorten his message because the prayer time goes so long, but he doesn’t mind at all.

The church is living out what it is called to be and it’s resurrected from what looked like certain death.

Now that’s a better picture, isn’t it?

Fighting the Wrong Battle?

Hiroo Onada c. 1944

Did you ever hear the story of the Japanese soldier, who continued fighting World War 2 until 1974? It’s a true story and his name is Hiroo Onada. He was an intelligence officer who was assigned to Lubang Island in the Philippines with the orders to do all he could to hamper Allied attacks on the island. His instructions were specific that under no circumstances was he to surrender! When the Allies overtook the island, unlike most of the rest who did surrender, he took to the hills with three others in his command.

They continued to carry out occasional raids on the Philippine police as they had opportunity. A number of times they came upon leaflets telling them that the war had ended, but they dismissed them as Allied propaganda, so they continued on. Over the years one walked away from the rest and surrendered, and two were killed in gunfire. Only Onada was left, but he continued on for quite awhile.

Onoda (second left) walking from the jungle where he had hidden since World War 2.

It wasn’t until 1974, that another Japanese man went looking for him and found him. The two became friends, but still Onada would not surrender. He would only do so if his commanding officer ordered him. Through his friend the Japanese government found that commanding officer, who met Onada and handed him his orders to cease fighting and surrender.

Have we as the church fallen out of communication with our commander, that like Onada we are fighting for things that don’t matter? Though there is a war with Satan (Eph. 6:10-12), have the battle lines shifted so we are shooting civilians way behind the front? Do we throw spiritual bombs at Catholics? Are we still targeting the fundamentalist-modernist controversy with the liberal denominations? Are we up in arms, when a young woman is dressed immodestly? These are still important issues that need to be addressed. However the biggest battle that we need to concentrate on is the secular wars; they’re slowly eating away at not only our moral base, but also our freedom to practice our faith. Some are called to fight the war in the public arena, but where the everyday person in the church needs to battle is for individuals to come to know the Lord. So we should reach out to people around us, love and care for them, and share the good news of the gospel with them. Like in any war the one with the most territory wins. The embattled territory is people’s lives!

Some are hidden away like Onada, but all it takes is for someone to go look for him and become his friend, and get in touch with the commanding officer for him, so he can surrender to Him.