There is only one reason the Church exists, and no, it’s not to keep stained glass artists busy. Don’t get me wrong, stained glass windows are beautiful, and our worship experience is greatly enhanced when the sun shines through those gorgeous colorful windows. But that’s not why Jesus founded the Church.
The Church was not founded for the following reasons either: to give us a place to hold weddings and funerals, to provide an opportunity to show off our news clothes on Easter, and as a destination for folks to gather and have a potluck supper. (By the way, there is no one who enjoys potluck suppers more than I do. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, there have been no potluck suppers at any nearby parishes for more months than I can count—and it’s making me very sad!)
Jesus founded His Church for one purpose: to proclaim the Gospel message throughout the world for all generations.
And what exactly is the Gospel message? Ah, good question. We’ve gotten so caught up in all the other activities of parish life that far too many believers don’t know what the simple and basic Gospel message is.
A straightforward explanation is found in the “Four Gospel Truths,” presented by the Life in the Spirit Seminar. (Some of our evangelical friends call them the “Four Spiritual Laws.”) Here’s a summary:
Truth #2: Human beings are sinful and separated from God, and therefore we cannot know God’s love and share in God’s life with others.
Truth #3: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on the cross to pay the price for our sins, and then He rose from the grave conquering death once and for all.
Truth #4: If we put our faith in Jesus and seek to follow His commands, we can have our sins forgiven and receive the gift of eternal life.
That’s it. The Gospel message could not be any simpler. The Creator of the Universe loves His creation, us. But since by nature we are selfish and cruel, we commit sins, which cause a big gulf between the holy God and ourselves. Thankfully, God loved us so much, He sent a part of His own being, His Son Jesus, to take on human flesh. (Don’t get hung up on the mystery of the Trinity. It’s a mind-boggling concept, but the main point is that God is not constrained by the same 3-dimensional natural forces that limit us here in the material world. We take it on faith that the one, eternal, almighty, supernatural God can exist in three separate persons.)
Jesus did the most amazing act of love the world has ever seen: He willingly gave up His sinless life to pay the price for all the sins human beings ever committed. Then, three days later, the most amazing miracle the world has ever seen occurred: Jesus rose from the dead, conquering the stench of death once and for all.
If you, like many believers, have lost sight of the basic Gospel message, this would be a great time to go back to the basics. The Gospel message can be summarized in those four simple truths. And as it says in Luke’s gospel: “Easy-peasy!”