John stood by the river, poorly dressed, and told others they needed to repent because the kingdom of God is near. I imagine some thought:
First, who is he to tell me to repent? Second, my life is good so what big changes do I have to make? Third, I’m going to live my way and I don’t need whatever fantasy kingdom he’s talking about.
Reactions from 27 A.D. might have been similar to ones we hear today.
This is my way of introducing you to “cheap grace,” a term coined by Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Cheap grace is when we assume God is love and that he will save most everyone. This attitude is really a false belief about God. Some think God is not holy and asks nothing more than mild self-improvement. They say to themselves, “God accepts me just the way I am.”
Some go on to 1) excuse themselves from reading the Bible, 2) disrespect the Scriptures by believing they were written for other people, and 3) make little effort to live according to God’s Word.
Why are Christians called to discipleship? Why do we need to be “ready for the return of the bridegroom” and repent of a life we enjoy now?
Because we cannot enter the Kingdom of God holding onto the things of this world. Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
Even though we can’t anticipate everything that might change as we take up our cross, we know our Lord calls us to change.
In every generation the voice is heard calling, “Prepare the way of the Lord!” The Holy One is calling you to holiness. Be a follower of Jesus Christ, acknowledging Him as your Lord.
“You’re going to church on Wednesday?” she asked, “What for?” I was having a conversation with a store employee and telling them I was preparing worship services for the Advent season. This was a new idea to them.
It dawned on me how important this conversation could be. I didn’t want to come across as judgmental since she was so open to admit she didn’t go to church. I considered this a chance to help someone think about praying again—and reconsidering the place of God in her life.
I shared with her that going to worship on Sunday and Wednesday during Advent is not unusual; in fact, it’s pretty normal for Lutheran Christians to “create space” in their schedule to pray and hear God’s Word.
“We’re constantly learning and asking God’s guidance since we all need grace for the day,” I said.
I’ve run into people who are scheduling family gatherings for the last week of December. My asking, “Oh, do you all go to church together on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?” has led to a variety of responses.
Some reply in the affirmative and talk about its importance. Some tell me they wouldn’t have time to go to a service because of all the things their family likes to do when they get together once a year.
It is my fervent hope that families in Lee’s Summit, and throughout our United States of America, will continue to worship the Lord in church together.
We find Jesus Christ in worship through sermons that keep us focused on his amazing works and teachings. We find Jesus Christ in the Lord’s Supper, where He gives Himself in, with, and under the bread and wine.
Jesus is uniquely present in church where He promised, and we are like children with open hands and open hearts when we come.