May 8, 2013 #625

I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:26 (NRSV)

Why do I need the church? This question has been asked of me and other pastors many times. The following statement usually follows that question. “What is important is my own personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” The implication is that can happen outside of the church. The ironic song “I can be a Christian by Myself” by Avery and Marsh, addresses this question. The first verse goes:

I can be a Christian by myself.
Leave my dusty Bible on the shelf.
I’ll sing a hymn and pray a bit.
God can do the rest of it.
My heart’s the church, my head’s the steeple.
Shut the door and I’m the people.
I can be a Christian by myself.

Some of the other verses include these lines:

I’ll break some bread and drink some wine.
Have myself a holy time.
I’ll take the off’ring then I’ll know
Where that money’s gonna go.
So please remember, Lord, when I die,
Give me my own cloud in the sky.
After this life with its labors
Don’t bug me with needy neighbors.

God's House - it's more than just a house.In John 17, Jesus prays about giving his love and glory to his disciples and to the community or church. It is not a prayer for the individual Christian but for the community. Throughout chapter 17 Jesus prays for all, them, these, we. In the prayer the only individual pronoun of I is applied to Jesus. Jesus is reminding us that the reason we need the church is because that is where we find Jesus. It’s where we receive his love through the word and sacrament. It is where we are able to give and receive the help of fellow believers. It is where we can follow Jesus example and pray for those in need. It is true that Jesus can be found outside the church and a personal faith is important. But Jesus makes it clear in this prayer that the place Jesus will always be found is in the midst of the gathering of God’s people, church. So why do you need the church? It’s the place where Jesus meets us and gives us his love and glory.