“Why would I want to do that?” That was the question that I asked the person on the other end of the line who wanted to sell me some product. “Well we have a very good reputation and we’re running a new service, blah blah blah . . .” was the response that I received. I was feeling kind of spikey that day so I said, “That sounds great for you and your company, but why would *I* want to do that?” The question seemed to throw them off. Their story was about their company, not about me, their customer.
This past Sunday we confessed a part of the explanation of the Lord’s Supper, or Sacrament of the Altar.
“What is the benefit of this eating and drinking?These words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,” show us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.”
I think sometimes we get the idea that we’re going to church for God’s benefit, that we’re praying for God’s benefit, and even that we’re taking the Sacrament for God’s benefit. We turn God into a co-dependent 7th grade girlfriend who just can’t be left alone without going down in an emotional tailspin. We turn God into someone who is constantly saying “want me want me want me”. And we imagine His experience of our going to the altar as something along the lines of Sally Field’s speech at the Academy Awards, “You LIKE Me, you really really like Me!”
And sure enough, the story of salvation – the story of the world, in fact – is the story of God. But it’s not the story in which God is seeking us for our benefits to Him. As He told the people of Israel in Psalm 50, “If I were hungry, I wouldn’t tell you. For the world is mine, and all it contains.” Instead, the story is a story about His benefits for us. He wants us to come to church because He knows it’s good for us, He wants us to pray because He knows it’s good for us, and He wants us to take the Sacrament because it’s good for us.
I think there is a danger that becomes clear as we come up on this 500th anniversary of the Reformation. I think the danger is that we can fall into the heresy of making our story about our company, not about our customer. We can make the Reformation about the Church when it should be about the Christ who gives His Body and Blood, who marries Himself to us making us one Body, one flesh with Him. We can make the Reformation about certain hymns and how they are played when it should be about the certainty of our Baptisms. We can make the Reformation about how great we are, and how people should celebrate the Reformation with us because it’s our holiday and they should love us for it. But that’s not the Christian way.
The Christian way is this: I will let God benefit me. I won’t try to be the hero whose job it is to make God happy. Rather, I will receive from Him. I will receive the forgiveness of sins. I will receive the benefits of God that spring from that forgiveness – life and salvation. And because I have benefited, I will go and benefit others – not to benefit God – but to benefit those whom He loves and gave His Son up for. This Reformation was never, and never should be, about the company – it’s about the customer, and the customer is you, and me, and our human neighbors – it’s about how God has served us. To Him be the praise, to Him be the glory. Amen.