Pronouns seem to be a popular topic nowadays. You may have gone to conferences or events where you are asked what your "preferred pronouns" are. Some social media sites even let you select pronouns for your profile. I had no idea when I was in 9th grade English class diagramming sentences what a hot topic pronouns would one day become!
Anyway, I want us to consider pronouns for a moment, not the ones we use to describe other people but the ones we use to describe the congregation where we are members. Most of you are members at Victory in Christ, but the same ideas apply no matter which congregation you are a member of. The way you talk about your church, the pronouns you use, says a lot about how you view yourself as part of that congregation. Here's an example. Maybe you're telling someone about Easter breakfast at your church. Do you say, "They're having an Easter breakfast" or "We're having an Easter Breakfast"? Do you see the difference? In the first case you are talking about your congregation in the third person, they, as if you're not really part of it. In the second case you are associating yourself with your congregation by speaking in the first person, we. Isn’t that better? "We have communion every Sunday. We have Sunday School and Bible Study at 11:00. We will be worshipping at 7:00pm on Wednesdays during Advent." And if there is something you see that needs doing around the church you can say to yourself, "How can I help?" versus, "What are they doing about that?"
Language is important; it shapes the way we think. That's why there is so much wrangling over pronouns in our culture. Language is often changed in an attempt to alter our sense of reality. It is the same with how we talk about our congregation. The way we speak reflects what we think and influences how we perceive ourselves as a member of the body of Christ at our church.
You say it every week in the Nicene Creed, "I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come." But do you realize what a radical belief that is? First, unbelievers don't believe it. Most would say you just "end" when you die. There is nothing after death. Or some might think your spirit or soul just goes off to someplace nice. Even many Christians are confused about the resurrection of the dead. How many times have you heard about a deceased loved one, "Now, they are an angel," or about the body of the dead, "Well, they're not there anymore?"
Christianity doesn't teach that you become an angel when you die. Death is the separation of the soul from the body. The souls of believers are taken to heaven to be with the Lord, while the souls of the unbelievers are tragically consigned to hell. But this is not the end. On the last day, when Christ returns in glory, our bodies will be raised from the dead. They will be raised as imperishable, perfect bodies. Our souls and bodies will be reunited, and we will again be whole people. God's people will live with Him forever, soul and body, in the bliss of the new heavens and the new earth.
Our bodies are not fleshly prisons from which our souls wish to escape. God created us as soul and body. When a loved one dies and you see their lifeless body, that is still the same body that held your hand, kissed your cheek, and spoke to you. Yes, their soul is "not there" but that body is still their body. Death and time will take that body and turn it to dust, but on the last day God will again breathe life into that dust, re-forming that same body into a glorious and perfect body. As the Apostle's Creed puts it, "I believe ... in the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting." Thanks be to God that He will give us new glorified bodies on the day of Christ’s return!
Why do we give offerings? There is, of course, a very practical reason to give money to the church; to provide for the financial needs of the congregation including mortgage payments, utilities, building upkeep, supplies, materials for worship and teaching, and salaries. Unlike a typical business, a congregation doesn't charge for its "services." Rather, those who attend give freely as they are able to support the ministry undertaken by that congregation.
So, is the church just another non-profit? Well, yes and no. As far as tax law is concerned, our congregation is a non-profit organization. Like many non-profits, we are solely dependent on offerings and gifts for our budgetary needs. However, we shouldn't understand the church in this merely secular way, as simply a non-profit business providing a particular religious "product" to members.
The Christian congregation is the body of Christ. He is her Lord. "Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life" (Matt. 10:29-30). In a typical business transaction when you pay a $1 you get a $1 worth of product or service. Is that true in church? The gifts that Christ gives are free in terms of cost yet priceless in terms of value. The tithes and offerings we give to the church in response to Christ's love are multiplied more than a hundredfold as we receive back from the Lord as pours upon us the riches of His grace. Our worldly riches may be few or many, but the riches of eternal life are countless. Thus, we Christians give generously as the Lord has generously given to us. He takes what we give and returns it a hundredfold.