Hearty congratulations to the First Baptist Church of Los Alamos, which on Monday, Aug. 14 celebrates their 70th anniversary! May God continue to bless you as you endeavor in your continued efforts to bring many to Our Lord Jesus Christ, and to deepen the faith of those already in your congregation. Sure, we have some differences in beliefs and interpretations, but our goals are the very same—to carry out the mission entrusted by Jesus to His followers: to make disciples of all nations, teaching the goodness of loving God above all and loving our neighbors … and thus lead them with the aid of God’s grace to the eternal life He promises to His faithful. So have a joy-filled anniversary, FBCLA!
The history of Los Alamos is always interesting to explore, probably both because of its uniqueness and that its history is so compact, being the quintessential “boom” town (no pun intended. Well … maybe). We Catholics lagged a few years behind the Baptists in building a church. While the ecclesial parish of Immaculate Heart of Mary (“IHM”) was established in 1946, it had neither church nor rectory (parsonage) at that time, continuing to celebrate Mass in Theatre #1. Later the Army trucked a chapel up the hill, which would become the United Church of Los Alamos and the community’s church building—Protestant and Catholic—dedicated in 1947. The first Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church was dedicated in 1951 … so watch out, you Baptists; our anniversary is coming up fast, too! “IHM 1” was built to the east of our present location, where the Canyon Village Apartments now stand. Our present church was constructed to accommodate the growing population of L.A. and was dedicated on Oct. 20, 1968, so we’ll be celebrating the church’s 50th next year.
Speaking of churches and attending services—Catholic or otherwise, not infrequently is heard the complaint: “I don’t go to church because the people there are hypocrites!” Well, if the complainant is expecting perfection, we’re guilty as charged; we Christians profess to love God and to follow Jesus Christ, but we DO often fail in the exercise of that profession. But there was a pertinent little quip circulating on Facebook not long ago: “Not going to church because of the ‘hypocrites’ is like not going to the gym because of the ‘out-of-shape people.’” Not bad. We don’t go to church because we ARE perfect, but rather because we WANT to move ever towards that perfection—however much we might limp and fail in reaching it.
Yup … there are lots of us Christians who fail both God and neighbor; in fact, ALL of us to varying degrees. That’s why that divine concept of forgiveness, which Jesus and the apostles emphasize and re-emphasize continually all throughout the Gospels and the New Testament, and which permeates the Old Testament and the entirety of salvation history as well … such as in that beautiful quote from the prophet Isaiah: “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land…” (Isaiah 1:16-19 RSV)
There may be true hypocrites in just about any congregation—the deceptive, the duplicitous, predators, those interested only in social standing, etc. But … even Jesus had Judas, and yet still called Judas “friend” even as Judas was betraying Him. (Matthew 26:50) And the other apostles certainly had plenty of faults—abandoning Jesus in His most dire hour perhaps the most glaring. But … when He appears to them after His resurrection, His first words are: “Peace be with you.” Is it so unusual, then, for Christian communities to pray for God’s grace to permeate and transform even the most hardened and blinded soul—sometimes even our own? That’s what we do when we come together each Sunday—to pray for one another and for the world, ever mindful of scripture: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:23-25)