How long has the Christian church been in existence? I am not talking about the denomination called the Christian Church, but the church of Christ, the one Jesus spoke of when he set the task before his disciples to go, preach, baptize and make disciples. How long has that church, "the true church" if you will, been on earth?
The number 2000 pops rather quickly to mind. Almost two thousand years ago Jesus was nailed to a piece of wood and killed. When he later walked out of his grave his church was begun. Or when the Spirit came at Pentecost was the church begun?
But I didn't really ask when the church began. I asked how long it has been here on Earth. When it began did it continue to this present day? Has it been here each of those two thousand years?
While most Christians will answer that indeed Christ's church has never died and has been alive on Earth at every moment since his resurection, Protestants will often have a hard time saying where it was. It is not that we verbally deny the existence of the church for the thousand years between Augustine and Luther, but don't we find it very difficult to say where the church was or who was in it during that period?
The problem is that we so often think of Christianity as the-religion-that-I-practice. As such, Protestants don't recognize themselves in Medieval Catholicism or in the Eastern Orthodox churches, with all of their rituals, icons, hierarchies, and language fixations. Nevertheless, if Christ's church continued for that milenium, it is here that we will find it.
Luther, Calvin and the great reformers did not invent Christianity. Nor did they resurect it from its tomb. They merely cleaned it of some of the rubbish that had accumulated on it over the years. They worked to reform, purify and sharpen it; they did not work to create it. The church was the womb from which they themselves sprang.
It is silly on our part to ignore the voices of God's servants in what often seems to us to be the silent milenium. But it only seems silent because we have closed our ears to its voices. So, in the interest of opening a little our arms to God's work at all times, the next week or two will be dedicated to posting some of the words of God's people from this "silent milenium."
If one is so inclined, it will be easy to see that their understanding of the Christian life is slightly different than our own; but if one is so inclined, it will also be possible to discern that the same Christ is being seen, longed for, and exalted. I prefer to do the latter.
Peter Abelard (1079-1142)
Good Friday: The Third Nocturn
(Trans. Helen Waddell)
Alone to sacrifice Thou goest, Lord,
Giving Thyself to death whom Thou wilt slay.
For us Thy wretched folk is any word,
Whose sins have brought Thee to this agony?
For they are ours, O Lord, our deeds, our deeds,
Why must Thou suffer torture for our sin?
Let our hearts suffer for Thy passion, Lord,
That very suffering may Thy mercy win.
This is that night of tears, the three days' space,
Sorrow abiding of the eventide,
Until the day break with the risen Christ,
And hearts that sorrowed shall be satisfied.
So may our hearts share in Thine anguish, Lord,
That they may sharers of Thy glory be:
Heavy with weaping may the three days pass,
To win the laughter of Thine Easter Day.