"Through toil and tribulation, And tumult of her war, She waits the consummation, O peace forevermore. Till with the vision glorious, Her longing eyes are blest, And the great Church victorious, Shall be the Church at rest.
"Yet she on earth has union, With God, the Three in One, And mystic sweet communion, With those whose rest is won. O blessed heav'nly chorus! Lord, save us by Your grace, That we, like saints before us, May see You face to face."
Upon hearing the word "church," many people picture a building of wood, brick, or stone with stained glass windows and a tall steeple. That is one definition, but for those who follow Jesus Christ, church means much more. The Church—at times written with a capital C—is the community of faith, composed of all who confess Jesus as Lord, the people of God called out of the world. The church is known by other names, too—the body of Christ, His holy Bride, and the Good Shepherd's precious, blood-bought flock.
In the eyes of the world, the church appears to be something far less important. Unbelievers see the "toil and tribulation and tumult" endured by those who follow Jesus. People who reject Christ may actively persecute the people of God and mock the sin and unrest that often stain the church from within. They see the church as fragmented and weak. Sadly, those of us who are the body of Christ see those things, too. But since we "walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7), we also see much more.
We see and experience the toil and tribulation and, in repentant humility, we admit that often we cause much of that trouble. Yet with confident faith and hope in the midst of the tumult, we await the eternal peace that lies before us. Jesus, the Head of the church, suffered, died, and rose from death to win that peace for us—peace that we do not deserve. Our sins are washed away in Jesus' blood, and we long to see "the vision glorious" of the church at rest in the presence of Jesus.
We will face tribulation, as Jesus said we would. Yet even now in the midst of tumult, we have "union with God, the Three in One." We are united in faith to the Triune God, who created us, redeemed us, and called us to Himself through the Gospel. As we confess in the Apostles' Creed, we are "the holy Christian church, the communion of saints." We enjoy "mystic sweet communion" with believers who have fallen asleep in Christ and enjoy peace and rest in His presence. With them, we are the one holy church, saved by God's grace through faith in Jesus. We wait with joy, patience, and longing for the day when we will see Jesus—the Shepherd of His flock, the Head of His church and our Bridegroom—face to face.
THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, guide and protect Your church until we enjoy eternal peace in Your presence. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Carol Geisler. It is based on the hymn, "The Church's One Foundation," which is number 644 in the Lutheran Service Book.
1. What kind of trials or tribulations do churches in the U.S. deal with today?
2. How different, do you think, churches are today from churches in the first couple of centuries?
3. When you hear the word "church," what do you most think of?
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