Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Does it Really Matter Where I Go to Church?

In our contemporary American society, with thousands of Christian Churches on every street corner, I often hear the comment, “It doesn’t matter where you go to Church as long as you go to Church.” I have heard this from many of our own parishioners so I thought it was a good time to address the question since Great Lent is again upon us and we are called to a higher level of commitment to the Church and attending Church services.
First allow me to address the most obvious error in this question. If it didn’t matter where we went to Church there wouldn’t be thousands of Churches in the first place. The fact that so many different expressions of faith in Jesus Christ exist, each declaring their own version of the truth of Christ, should cause us at the very least to question why so many versions of the truth exists – or more importantly how so many versions of the truth could exist. Truth is truth and it simply isn’t possible that everyone is correct.

This is the first truth proclaimed by the Orthodox Church on the Sunday of Orthodoxy. We believe that we are the historical Church, established by the Holy Apostles of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We know the Holy Apostles were guided in all truth by the Holy Spirit (see John 16.13). We follow a way of life taught by Christ and passed to us by the Holy Apostles. Our faith that the Holy Apostles established the Church in truth is a matter of faith in Christ’s guarantee. The Holy Apostles established the Church and spoke very strongly about remaining united to that Church.

Second allow me to comment on the general theology found in other Christian Churches. During the Divine Liturgy we recite the Nicene Creed, a doctrine of what we believe about Jesus Christ. When we enter into any other Church that does not share this same doctrine we have found ourselves in a Church that preaches a different theology than the Orthodox Church. Listen to the hymns and carefully read the prayers offered. Do the prayers express a different understanding of who God is? Do the prayers begin or end “in the name of Jesus” or, as our Holy Orthodox Tradition since the beginning, “in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit?” We must remember the importance of HOW we understand Jesus since it is Jesus who saves us from death.

Third and most important is our ability to receive Holy Communion. WE CANNOT RECEIVE Holy Communion in any other Church but an Orthodox Church for the reasons I have just stated. If we cannot receive Holy Communion then, as Jesus says in the Gospel, we have no life in us. “"Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6.53)

On Sunday, March 4th we will celebrate the Sunday of Orthodoxy with these words:

X  This is the faith of the Apostles!

X  This is the faith of the Fathers!

X  This is the faith of the Orthodox!

X  This is the faith which has established the Universe!

This is why it DOES MATTER where we go to Church. I pray I see you in Church during Great Lent as we prepare to celebrate the Glorious Resurrection of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ.

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