The Pastor's Desk Image

PARADISE CORNER

I have been thinking a lot lately about why our church stands out from the other churches around us. The easiest answer is that our church stands out for its beautiful location on the hill. (I can’t find it in any of the written histories of our church, but I love the story that the hill at the former Deitrich site was chosen because, from there, a person could see the three churches that merged to form the new Millcreek Lutheran Church in 1962.) I have also come to realize that isn’t the only reason our church stands out. The way I have come to say it is that Millcreek is the only sacramental church in Newmanstown-Richland. It is probably helpful for me to clarify what I mean by that and that will be the purpose of this article.
The first thing to say is that we—along with our neighboring churches—are chiefly a church of the Word of God. This means we proclaim God’s message centered the person and work of Jesus Christ, who is the living Word of God. Our source for this message is the Holy Scriptures, through which God’s Spirit speaks to us to create and sustain Christian faith and fellowship for service in the world. What makes us stand out, however, is that we believe that God’s living word is not limited to spoken words in sermons and the written words of the Holy Scriptures. We believe God’s living Word also takes visible form in the sacraments.
Crazy Talk: A Not So Stuffy Definition of Theological Terms is a book I often refer to because it is written by a trusted panel of Lutheran theologians. That book says this about sacraments. “The best way to understand the sacraments is to think of them as visible words. They are the way that God says, ‘I love you.’ God says this in bread, wine, and water—the simplest things of everyday life.” As a sacramental church, we believe and teach that water, bread, and wine are more than mere symbols. We believe and teach water, bread, and wine are visible words that actually accomplish the blessings God intends for us. Those blessings are forgiveness of sins, redemption from death and the devil, life, and eternal salvation.
We believe water, bread, and wine are real means of God’s grace. This is not because of some magic power the pastor has. This is because the Word of God that is spoken with the water, bread, and wine has more power than a pastor (especially this one!) will ever have. This makes for the fullest experience of God’s grace that is more complete than mere preaching and teaching. (Good News: We never leave church “un-graced.” Even if I preach a lousy sermon, God’s grace still comes in Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.) It makes me wonder why many people—even Christians—don’t want all of God’s grace they can get every Sunday.
God’s grace makes us stand out, not just because we have a beautiful location at the top of a hill, but also because God reaches into the common things of our lives to change us for our sakes and for the sakes of those around us. We stand because Jesus stood first and still invites us to follow him down the hill and into the world what needs his love in ways that go beyond mere symbolism.
Live as children of light!
Pastor Scott Paradise