One day, Satan and Jesus were in a contest. The rule of the game is to find places where each of their followers frequently gather. It was Satan’s turn. They went to a bar and looking at the men drinking liquors in company of raunchy women Satan blurted out, “You see this people Jesus? You are absent from their minds at this very moment. They all belong to me.” At this, Jesus just looked away. Then they went to a disco bar. It was full of men and women in their teens – poor vulnerable souls. Once again Satan gave off a diabolic laughter as he pointed to the young men and women. “You see these young people Jesus, very vulnerable souls. They’re supposed to find their life’s direction at this stage of their lives. And yet where are they now? In my company, they all belong to me.” Then Satan led Jesus to a cockpit. It was in cacophony – myriads of voices shouting thunderously every now and then. Then Satan pointed out, “See them Jesus? What are in their minds now are their roosters and their bets. They aren’t thinking of you today. Maybe later or tomorrow they will. But who can tell for as long as they have their roosters with them. They are mine.” At this point Jesus was already full. It was now his turn. He brought Satan to a church. The priest was preaching passionately and all eyes were at him. And then Jesus told Satan, “You see this people Satan? The church is full; there are a lot of youth here, more numerous than those we saw in the bar. And there are a lot of men, more numerous than the men in the cockpit. They are still willing to sacrifice their time to spend it with me. They are mine.” Immediately after this, Satan gave a bawdy laughter. “Really? Look closely at them. Their eyes were closed. They were sleeping. They weren’t listening; they’re only here to have a nap. A lot of them are not even yours, they are mine.”
Brothers and sisters, when you hear the word church, what comes to your mind? Maybe the building, maybe the sanctuary and maybe the place. But one important thing we should know today is that the Church is the people of God. Like the story, it’s the people whom God can call His own. I who is preaching to you now and you who are listening to me – we are the people of God. We are God’s own. We do not just go to church, we are the Church. The Greek word for church ecclesia comes from the word kaleo which means “to call out.” We are His people who are being called out by Him to be of one heart and one mind. You do not belong to anybody else, you are not even your own. God has called you and you are His. It is as if God has entered into this church building today bringing Satan with him and pointing to each one of us while saying, “These people are mine.”
Now the question is, God has declared that you are His, how about you – who do you think owns you? Brothers and sisters, the answer to this question is very crucial – knowing who owns us would determine the way we relate to our owner. Actually, I’m adamant about using the word owner here lest it would appear that we are a property. We may not be a property in the strict sense but we are chosen to be in His fold, and He being the owner of His fold is also our owner. The point here though is that it’s not only a matter of Him choosing us than us choosing Him. If we are a people owned by God then our actions should show it. But how are we today? Are we one of those people who go to church and yet remain blind, who frequently listen to the word of God being proclaimed in the pulpit and yet remain deaf to the depth of its message, who frequently partake of the body and blood of our Lord and yet unnourished by its life-changing Spirit, or those people who love God because He is just and yet look at his poor fellows with unjust contempt?
Brothers and sisters, as people of God we are not just called to go to church, we are called to be the Church; to be a light to others, to be a path for those who are astray, and to be a refuge for those who are downtrodden. We are called to treat others as equals. In the Church, there is no room for conceit or superiority. We are equals and the only one above us is God. I, being your preacher does not mean that I should treat you as my subjects as though I am a little king in my little kingdom. Far from it, I’m called to serve you. As what St. Augustine says, “For you I am a bishop, with you I am a Christian.” Being a preacher does not entitle me to a reserved slot in heaven. On the other hand, God has opened heaven for us all. Why? Because we are His people. A good king has a good plan for his people – our God is a good king and has prepared for us a good destiny. But while we are waiting for that destiny, it is but imperative for us today to prepare ourselves, to do the right thing, so that next time when God visits our Church, he will find people who are well-disposed to God and by that time God could claim, “They are mine.”
And Satan cannot object.