Why Church is For You


“There is, besides this command, also a promise as we heard above which ought most strongly to incite and encourage us. For here stand the kind and precious words: This is My body, given for you. This is My blood, shed for you, for the remission of sins. These words, I have said, are not preached to wood and stone, but to me and you; else He might just as well be silent and not institute a Sacrament. Therefore consider, and put yourself into this “You”, that He may not speak to you in vain.”

-Martin Luther, Large Catechism on the Sacrament of the Altar

A young man, new to serving God’s beautiful forgiven and life-given people, expressed his deepest frustration to me a short while ago. He recently had a conversation with a young woman who had just completed two years of learning about Christianity. He left the conversation disheartened. Just weeks after publicly confessing her faith in our Lord, she totally contradicted what she should have learned.

I remember questioning the efficacy of God’s ministry through His church at his age. A while ago, I sat at the bedside of a longtime member of the church who was dying. As we talked about Jesus and his promises, she made it clear that her confidence in entering the pearly gates lay pretty much on her religious attendance at church services. I was embarrassed. How often did she listen to my sermons and still didn’t buy into the complete sufficiency of God’s grace in Jesus?

Another friend of mine listening to the conversation mentioned how he sat beside a dying pastor who didn’t know if the Lord’s forgiveness completely covered him either. How is that possible?

What should be the friendly response to each of these individuals’ doubts and ignorances? Tell them the Gospel again! Put them into this YOU, as Luther says. Again, again and again! The “You” mentioned by Luther is Christ’s forgiveness, won on the cross for the entire world and thus for you. From the waters of baptism to the moment before their last breath, we need to be talked to like little children who hear for the first time that Jesus has freely given us His righteousness so that we don’t have to rely on our own. We can’t hear that enough. I can’t hear that enough. Not just in regards to enjoying holy communion but all of Jesus’ holy words. I get to be that YOU in the Risen Christ’s “for you.” And so do you! All other wonderful teachings of Holy Scripture from creation to Christ’s coming again are absolutely worthless without being understood in light of Jesus, death, and resurrection for sinners.

Until we are buried six feet deep, the chained Devil will bark lies, and our chained, old Adam will twist and turn specifically against the Son of God’s words, “for you.” Therefore do not be surprised by 80-year-old doubters, 15-year-old ignoramuses, or even your doubts and uncertainties. So Jesus sends His Church, you and me, to repeatedly say, “for you!”  And encourage one another to “put yourself into this You!”

All other wonderful teachings of Holy Scripture from creation to Christ’s coming again are absolutely worthless without being understood in light of Jesus, death, and resurrection for sinners.
— Joel Hess

Every church service should be exactly that. When handing out Christ’s body and blood, sharing the peace with a hug and speaking from the pulpit, remind your fellow brother or sister in Christ that all of this is for them, for you!  No matter how many times you have come to church, or how mature you are in the faith, you will never graduate from the receiving end of Christ’s words. You will always need to be put back into this You!

Don’t be scared. Put it all in there. All your secrets, your shames, your perverted thoughts, murderous feelings, and greedy, godless goals. All of it goes in that You. All of it receives the blood of the Savior, the washing of His Word, the exchange of His precious holy life, given and shed for you.

Rev. Joel Hess is the fortunate pastor at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Cadillac, MI, where God’s reality pierces through our illusions by His Word, flesh and blood and gentle waters.  He is the author of many half written projects; a talented musician and artist.  His contributions to the Jagged Word deal with the intersection of theology, culture and the arts.