Jack W. Sawyer
As I was driving my kids to school, I saw a bumper sticker I really liked. It said, "St. Francis Cabrini Catholic Church Is My Family." It reminded me that my congregation, Pineville Presbyterian Church, is my family.
My first thought was that maybe we could make our own bumper sticker. It would testify to our community that we care about one another. And care we do! I confess with delight that I have been embraced by most, if not all, as family!
But the bumper sticker also reminded me that the church should be the focus of our lives. The psalmist recounts his supreme delight in the saints of God (Ps. 16:3). He beseeches the Lord for the favor of participating in the joy of the covenant people (Ps. 106:4-5).
In the New Testament, Paul refers to the church as our mother (Gal. 4:26). Wherever he went, he established local churches and sought by visit and letter to strengthen the brethren, that they might endure in the kingdom of God (Acts 14:21-23). The church is the house of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15).
In the Reformed confessions, there is abundant reference to the importance of the church as our family. In our Westminster Confession, the church is so important that ordinarily there is no salvation outside of it (WCF, 25.2). Everyone is duty-bound to join this true church of Christ, according to the Belgic Confession (Art. 29). The Heidelberg Catechism enjoins upon every member the obligation to use his gifts readily and cheerfully for the well-being of the other members of Christ's body ... our family (Lord's Day 21, Q. 55). We have the blessed assurance that we shall persevere to the end and be saved, as we are and ever shall remain living members of the church (Canons of Dort, V.9).
Our Reformed heritage abundantly reminds us-from the Scriptures, the confessions, and our worship-of the great privilege that is ours as those who have been enrolled as citizens of Zion. Our tradition reminds us further what a blessing it is to be fellow members of God's household and thus a family of believers.
In the day of the regeneration of all things, when we become like the angels of God, our earthly families will recede, but the family ties of faith will abide forever. But even now we can and should begin to cherish those ties as we reflect upon the blessing that is ours to be part of our local church.
Well, maybe the bumper sticker is not such a great idea, but the thought sure is: As for me and my house, Pineville Presbyterian Church is my family!
The author is the pastor of Pineville Presbyterian Church in Pineville, La. Reprinted from New Horizons, March 2005.