Live for God’s glory

PROFESSIONS OF FAITH

What church did Joseph and Mary belong to?

Some dare to suggest that they were Assembly of God because Mary sang in the spirit. Some believe they were Methodists because they were such warm-hearted believers. Some contend they were Roman Catholic because Joseph and Mary were obedient to all prescribed rituals. Some speculate that they were United Church of Christ because of Mary’s strong emphasis upon social justice in her song of praise. Some believe they were Lutheran because they practiced the Lutheran precept, “the just shall live by faith.”

Some are certain they were Reformed because Joseph seemed to have such a quiet and dignified approach to his religion. Some suggest they were Independent because they stood out so much from all the rest of the run-of-the-mill religious people. Some embrace them as being Baptists because Mary declared, “Let it be to me according to thy word!”

Then there are those who have concluded they were forerunners of the Christian Missionary Alliance Church because they prepared their son for the mission field. And the Jews, of course, are certain they were Orthodox members of the synagogue whose son cause them unending anguish.

And so it would seem every churchman wants to make the biblical characters their kind of people. But as we put events into proper sequence, we realize Joseph and Mary were members of none of the above churches. The historic record indicates that Joseph and Mary remained a part of their own religious tradition. With all of its imperfections, this is the system they remained a part of. And later, Mary came to believe that her son represented the true fulfillment of that tradition.

The thing that made Joseph and Mary stand out, however, was not the church they belonged to, but rather, their unfailing obedience to the will of the Lord. There was nothing in the religious institution then or now that could keep Godly people from being Godly people. Joseph and Mary were Godly people in spite of and in the midst of the church. Nor was there anything in any religious institution then or now that could guarantee to the believer a life of religious perfection.

Joseph and Mary were shining examples of Godliness, not because of the church they belong to, but because of their obedience to the Holy Spirit. Even the strict religious order of the Pharisees could not claim members as holy as Joseph and Mary.

The thing that will make us stand out as Godly people is not which church we belong to, but rather, our obedience to the Lord in the midst of whatever church we belong to. Sooner of later, we will hopefully give up our quest in search of the perfect church. We will settle down in one particular place — it may bear a Methodist sign-post, it may bear a Lutheran sign-post, it may be Roman Catholic ground or United Church of Christ territory. But there, like Jesus, in the midst of all the imperfections, we will lay down our lives. Like Jesus, we will determine to live for God’s glory, emptying ourselves, taking the form of a servant.

The world may label us E&R, EUB, LCA, UM or UCC. But hopefully God will label us, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

The question is not what church Joseph and Mary belonged to. The question is, are you following in their steps?

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Pastor Charlie Stump is the newly-elected pastor at First Baptist Church, on Third Street, Lewistown. He is a graduate of Drew Theological Seminary and Princeton Seminary, having held ministerial credentials in the United Methodist, UCC and Christian and Missionary Alliance. This will be his second special term at First Baptist, having served as their interim pastor previously, in 2007 and 2008. Stump will begin his official duties at the church on Jan. 14.

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