Below is the devotion that came in today from the Henri Nouwen society.  Luther taught us that the person is both saint and sinner at the same time (simul iustus et peccator); Nouwen reminds us that the Church is likewise holy and sinful, spotless and tainted at the same time.

One of the problems with us poor, sinful human beings is that it’s not easy for us to deal with that “at the same time.”  It’s extremely easy to see the sinner sitting across from us, but we have a hard time seeing the saint.  The sinfulness of the Church is terribly obvious to human eyes, but not its holiness.  Perhaps that’s a consequence of “You shall be like gods, knowing good and evil” – perhaps the unspoken part of that sentence is “but you shall focus on the evil and ignore the good.”

If we’re actually trying to see the saint in the person or the holy in the Church it often seems like we’re trying to see the potential saint or the potential holy church – the saint or the holy that they will be someday, when Jesus takes them to glory.  That’s good, and on that day their salvation and their sanctification will be complete and all sin will be gone.

But until that day, even though we see lots of sin both in the person and in the Church, we delude ourselves if we think that the sin is stronger or more powerful or has a bigger piece of the pie than the holy.  Luther, I think, would argue that the person is simul saint and sinner; Nouwen would say that the church, full of sinful, fighting children, has already been bought by the blood of Jesus and washed in the waters of Baptism.

The difficulty is not that the church has not become fully holy, nor that the person has not become completely saintly.  The difficulty is that we (including the church and the person himself!) have not yet learned to see the holy and the saintly with clarity and with faith.  The log is still in the eye.

Wednesday October 17, 2012The Church, Spotless and TaintedThe Church is holy and sinful, spotless and tainted.  The Church is the bride of Christ, who washed her in cleansing water and took her to himself “with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless”  (Ephesians 5:26-27).  The Church too is a group of sinful, confused, anguished people constantly tempted   by the powers of lust and greed and always entangled in rivalry and competition.

When we say that the Church is a body, we refer not only to the holy and faultless body made Christ-like through baptism and Eucharist but also to the broken bodies of all the people who are its members.   Only when we keep both these ways of thinking and speaking together can we live in the Church as true followers of Jesus.

- Henri J. M. Nouwen

Comment on this Daily Meditation.Visit our website for inspiration, resources, news, events, community.
Text excerpts taken from Bread for the Journey, by Henri J.M. Nouwen, ©1997 HarperSanFrancisco. All Scripture from The Jerusalem Bible ©1966, 1967, and 1968 Darton, Longman & Todd and Doubleday & Co. Inc. Photo by V. Dobson.