07 June 2009

What Distinguishes Emmaus?

I have recently noted that those who do not attend Emmaus tend to describe and define our congregation on the basis of what they have heard about our liturgical practice and ceremony. Whether regarded positively or negatively, those assessments distinguish Emmaus as "high church," and seem to presume that we deliberately define ourselves in that way, too.

But those who attend Emmaus regularly, and who participate in the rhythm and fellowship of our congregation, tend to describe and define who we are in terms of catechesis and the preaching of the Gospel. That is definitely what I am chiefly and deliberately about as a pastor, and hardly anything makes me happier than hearing people say that what they hear and receive at Emmaus, and what they associate Emmaus with, is the Gospel.

For those who know and understand that the main thing at Emmaus, the primary and foundational thing, is the preaching and catechesis of the Gospel, everything else is recognized and received in that light. Our liturgical practices and our use of ceremonies simply belong to the catechesis and confession of that Gospel. So, too, the hymns we sing, and really everything else that we do on purpose as a congregation, is in the service of the Gospel.

From my pastoral perspective, certainly, that focus on the Gospel is what sets Emmaus apart. But it is significant, and I find it tremendously encouraging, when members and friends of our congregation identify us in that same way. Christ be praised!


OFHP said...

Yes indeed Christ be praised.
Emmaus thanks Him for the faithful Pastors that work hard in their vocation and truly give
attention to the preaching and cathechesis of their members old and young. It's not an easy thing to describe,, it's easier for people to come and see for themselves and although we aren't the only church like this --- I fear the number is growing less and less with all the "new and improved" ideas out there. But Christ be praised for all the other Pastors and congregations out there being faithful to the Gospel.

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

The sad thing is, there are lots of pastors who sincerely and eagerly want to be about the preaching and catechesis of the Gospel, but whose congregations resist those things and insist upon other things. It is rare (though not unheard of) for members of a congregation to say, "We want less Gospel, and more this or that," but that is exactly the gist of it when people ask for less emphasis on the Word and Sacrament and more emphasis on programs, techniques, methods and gimmicks. I'm still taken aback when I see my colleagues being faced with those pressures and struggles, but it actually seems to happen quite a lot.

For my part, however, the emphasis on the Gospel at Emmaus is due in large part to the encouragement and support of the congregation. The people have basically made it clear that what they want is the Gospel, as much of it as their pastors can deliver to them from Jesus in His means of grace. And the parents have made it clear that what they want is catechesis for their children and themselves. These are the things that make it such a delight to be the pastor of Emmaus.

I give thanks, too, that there are other congregations like this, with faithful people and pastors focused on the Gospel of Christ. They don't all look alike; they don't all follow the same liturgical practices or use the same ceremonies; but they hold in common the preaching of Jesus and His Body and His Blood, which are the holy things that comprise the Holy Christian Church.