The Church has been accused over the years of keeping to ourselves in our own private churches, instead of reaching out and preaching the Good News to the world. I admit, it can be easy to sit back, look at our own churches (presumably filled with members) and think ‘our work here is finished,’ but that is only part of the story.
If God had meant for the Gospel to be only for those inside the Church, we Gentiles would never have been welcomed in. God had already promised to His People that He would save them. He even kept His initial message to those Jews whom He had chosen saying to the Apostles, “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 10.5-6) So, what changed?
Nothing changed. St Paul teaches that is was always God’s plan to allow bring the Gentiles into the Church, as he mentioned in today’s reading below. The Jews were part of the foundation preparation before we could be added on. That brings me to my point today. WE are the foundation of the future, just as the Jews were the foundation of the past.
Brethren, you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles -- assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that is, how the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace which was given me by the working of his power. – Ephesians 2.19-22, 3.1-7
It is now our job to prepare the Church to welcome those outside to ‘come and see’ for themselves that the Savior has come. He has conquered death. He has joined humanity to His divinity and allowed us by His grace to partake of His nature. He has finally completed our creation. That is only possible if we go out and share the Gospel with our friends, neighbors, coworkers, and even our family members who may have strayed away.
The accusations against the Church have merit if we continue to sit back with a false sense of satisfaction because OUR Church happens to have enough members. What is enough members anyway? Have you ever considered that if the first Church was content with their membership, the Gospel would never have reached us today? Isn’t it about time to plan new Churches throughout our society, so that others can be added to the foundation?
I understand it is easier said than done, but we must try. We can no longer be content with the members we already have, or even focus only on those who have strayed from the Church, and there are many. It starts with YOU, not your Parish Council, not your Priest, not your Synod. It starts with YOU going out and having a conversation about God with your friends and neighbors. It starts with you being willing to share your church with strangers. We did it before, and we can do it again.