Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Toothless Lion... Really, Rather Harmless

It would seem that the predominant evangelistic perspective of modern Christianity (even among Lutherans) is the idea that the Gospel and the Church are really nothing to be afraid of -- rather benign, really.  We speak the Gospel in terms that it will "add" to the richness of your daily life but not as if its lack will detract from that life.  We speak of worship as nothing threatening but fun and funny.  We speak of the Church as plain old folks just like you -- we are really nobody different except that we believe in something.  We speak of the clergy as ordinary people -- not especially holy or religious and they only represent themselves; why, they wear polo shirts and khakis...

Were I not already Christian, I cannot say that I would be attracted by such a characterization of a Gospel which helps a bit but does not hurt to be without... or worship which is merely a reflection (generally a poor reflection) of the same stuff I listen to on radio or cd and watch on TV.... or a church made up of people who believe in something but nothing so specific that I cannot feel fully at home in their midst even without faith... or a clergy so ordinary that they less inspire than reflect my own mundane existence...

Who is attracted by such a toothless lion, really, rather harmless?  Is not the Word of God a two edged sword?  Does the Gospel not bestow upon us what we have lost -- what keeps us from being fully human and our lives being whole and complete?  Does not the Church offer the only hope and light a hopeless people living in darkness can ever find?  Do the clergy not represent themselves with all their foibles and failings but the very God enfleshed?  Now, don't get me wrong.  We should not be MORE offensive than the Gospel is but neither should we be LESS offensive than the Gospel is...

When people enter the house of God during the Divine Service, should they not be confronted with something completely other?  Do we as Christians not expect God to be in His Word and at His Table, doing what He has promised?  Is this not the awesome mystery which the Church confesses even though we do not fully comprehend its fullness?  If this is missing, can we say we are faithful to this Gospel or faithfully communicating God's message to the world around us?

It is the greatest sadness that we pawn off the Church (and therefore Christ) as a toothless lion who can really do no harm but which is really kind of nice once you get used to it...  It is to our poverty that we offer the world only a pale imitation of what they already have instead of the radical difference of the Incarnate God who has borne the fullness of our sin and all its grief in order to place upon us the easy yoke of grace and mercy... It is our weakness that we would rather be seen as ordinary than the extra-ordinary among whom God is present and faith apprehends and responds to this presence in the means of grace...

Perhaps our problem is that we no longer really believe the lion has any teeth or the faith that gives us so much also leaves us empty without it... Perhaps we need to read the Chronicles of Narnia once again for surely the real Aslan of too many Christians and their churches has become a figurehead -- nice to look at if you want to but really rather harmless...

3 comments:

ErnestO said...

Pastor Peters does not like the "Toothless Lion" and Bonhoeffer wanted nothing of "Cheap Grace."


“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.”—Dietrich Bonhoeffer
— — —
By cheap grace, Bonhoeffer means the arrogant presumption that we can receive forgiveness for our sins, yet never abandon our lives to Jesus. We assume, since grace is free, there is no cost associated with the free gift.
The gift is free, but Jesus paid a bloody price to offer us the gift. The gift is free, but that doesn’t mean there is no cost to following Jesus once we step into his grace.
Costly grace justifies the sinner—Go and sin no more. Cheap grace justifies the sin—Everything is forgiven, so you can stay as you are.
To assume that God’s grace is nothing more than a way to “get out of jail free” undermines the kingly crown of thorns Jesus wore on the cross. We do not receive God’s grace to make us feel better about ourselves while we live in this world; rather, God gives it in order for us to enter into the kingdom of heaven even as we live in this world.
Jesus rescued the woman caught in adultery from certain death, but his expectation was that her life would change immediately. To return to her old life would have mocked the very grace that Jesus gave that day. His expectation of a changed life is no different for us: “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Thank you Pastor Peters for being God's messenger to me today.

ErnestO said...

I was amiss for not crediting the above content of my post to:
Jon Walker and his article
Cheap Grace justifies sin, not the sinner

George and Colleen said...

perhaps we need to read Amos again!

A life in the totality of God's word, not just the 20 verses we like would do wonders.