December 2, 2018

By: Maren Thompson

RENEWING GOD’S HOUSE THROUGH LEARNING AND GROWING:  Colossians 1:5-6:  You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you.  Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the Grace of God.  

 

Moving to China a few years ago brought many rewards – and many challenges.  One of those challenges was simply the logistics of getting to church every week, which was not an easy task in China.  Existing regulations barred Chinese citizens from attending religious gatherings organized by foreign religious groups. We found a Protestant nondenominational church that welcomed foreign passport holders, which would become our church home for the time we were overseas.  Every Sunday, my husband and I would take our e-bikes with our sons in tow. It was truly God’s grace that allowed me to put aside my fears of getting out of our complex safely and crossing the busy roads as we ventured out into the unknown, always arriving in one piece, anxious to learn and meet the new worshipers as we listened to what had brought them to China and how the Holy Spirit had drawn them to worship.  Never in my life had I needed more to hear the familiar hymns and gather together with other Christians in worship. I was so thankful for this opportunity.

 

Every Sunday, many curious Chinese citizens would stand in the hallways and outside the church, looking in to our service, which was after theirs.  In spite of the deep sadness I felt not being able to worship and share God’s word together directly with them, God was still able to provide us a safe place to worship.  While China is still officially an atheist nation, many of the young Chinese people have converted to Christianity and welcomed its teachings in the day to day struggles of the vast consumerism that has taken over in recent decades.  As our time in China passed, I slowly began to understand the complex relationship of religion and government in China, and am extremely grateful for the freedoms here. I had once very much taken for granted – religious freedom and the right to worship.

 

I leave you with the words of Martin Luther.  I often refer to his “A Work in Progress” below and find comfort in his summary of how Christianity embodies a sense of continual learning and growth – as we face the day to day challenges of our own world.

 

“A Christian is always in the process of becoming, never in the state of having become.  The Christian life is not being pious but becoming pious, not being healthy but becoming healthy, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise.  We are not yet what we are to be but we are becoming it. It is not yet done and has not yet happened. It is, however, going on and coming to be. It is not the end, but the way.”

 

Lord, Thank you for the religious freedom and the right to worship together as Christians.  Continue to guide us as we grow through worship in our Christian faith! Amen.

 

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Salem Lutheran Church affiliated with the E.L.C.A. Salem is a vibrant welcoming Lutheran community that, through the grace of Jesus Christ, is connected within by love and reaching out in hope to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with one another, the community and the world.

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