For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations…He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Eph 2:14-18 NIV)
It’s no longer like in the days of the Old Testament. Then the Church was limited to the narrow confines of the people of Israel. Even at the time of Jesus Christ’s birth the Church was really a national Church (Landeskirche), the church of but one nation. All other nations were just gentiles, “excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.” (Eph 2:12 NIV)
The Church of the New Testament is no longer a national or tribal church, but rather the Church from all people, nations and tribes. A Church with members in all countries. A Church which calls, gathers and unites its members from all ends of the world in the one herd with the one good shepherd. They are brought together from various folds and pastures. It is the one, truly universal (catholic) Church, which flourishes throughout the ages and has confluence from all people and all nations – big and small, rich and poor, high and low, young and old. She is God’s great idea, that is coming to fulfilment. It is God’s work in the final stages of this world, the favourite reality of all saints in their lives and when they are dying. They lived and live for this Church, died and die for it still. This is the reality, which is the central core, purpose and essence of the Churches mission or else it doesn’t know, what it is and what it should do. For the Mission is nothing else than God’s one holy Christian Church in motion – the realization of the one, communal, truly universal (catholic) Church. Wherever this mission reaches, there barriers separating people, tribes and nations from each other fall and are removed. Wherever it comes, there it draws near, what was previously far and separate. Where it finds room, there the wonderful unity is established, that enables the “different people from all tongues of this world” to understand each other in all matters. This Church and its mission are inseparable. Nobody can tear them apart, without doing the impossible – killing both + Amen.
Praise be to God, the eternal King of his imperishable kingdom. Praise be to God, the eternal bridegroom of the immortal and eternal Church. Praise be to the Lord, the Holy Spirit, who gathers an elect congregation from all times and ages to the one and only bridegroom. Praise be to the triune God and Lord. Blessed be his Church! Blessed she truly is, for the portals of hell will never overwhelm it. Amen. Amen. (Wilhelm Löhe)
1 O Christ, our true and only light, Enlighten those who sit in night; Let those afar now hear Your voice And in Your fold with us rejoice.
2 Fill with the radiance of Your grace The souls now lost in error’s maze; Enlighten those whose inmost minds Some dark delusion haunts and blinds.
3 O gently call those gone astray That they may find the saving way! Let ev’ry conscience sore oppressed In you find peace and heav’nly rest.
4 Shine on the darkened and the cold; Recall the wand’rers to Your fold. Unite all those who walk apart; Confirm the weak and doubting heart,
5 That they with us may evermore Such grace with wond’ring thanks adore And endless praise to You be giv’n By all Your Church in earth and heav’n. (Johann Hermann, 1585-1647; tr Catherine Winkworth, 1827-1878)
This is a rather free translation of Wilhelm Löhe’s devotion for the 4th January during the high holiday of Christmas. It is found on Pg. 45 in Lob sei Dir ewig, o Jesu! (Eternal Praise to you o Jesus!) edited by A. Schuster and published in the Freimund Verlag, Neuendettelsau 1949.