Friday, December 10, 2010
Refuge or Forward Position
Are the Scriptures schizophrenic or does it depend upon the circumstance orf situation or what? I find that the predominant images are of the Church or God as refuge, fortress, or strong-hold. Hiding place rates up there also - at least as a unique twist on the refuge idea. Much as I am tempted to try and find texts to say to God's people, "Get off your duff and do something," the primary images of the Church and God are just the opposite -- when you have no where else to run, God is there and His mighty power is enough for every situation and against every enemy.
Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, going to college in the 1970s, I find that the idea of getting the church out of the boat was a common focus or idea. To many of that era, the Church was a sleeping giant that needed to be awakened (now that quote ought to set your google cooking since it has been variously assigned to different speakers as they spoke about the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod). I would also have to say that during much of that time, it was thought God also needed to be awakened. Whether He was asleep in the back of the boat or hidden away in the mountain tops, He surely was not aware of the stir and fuss going on in the world and He must be summoned from His nap to wake up and do something.
Much as the home has changed from a welcome place where we invite people to a refuge where we go to get away from the stress and turmoil of our lives, so have we returned to the comfort and calm of a God who is a refugre, who provides us a fortress, and who is our strong-hold in the face of every enemy assault. The Church would do well to pick up on this image and promote it (the legitimate image from Scripture and not as some marketing tool). People are ripe for picking when it comes to seeking and finding a quiet place, a center in their lives, a refuge from the struggles and storms, and a fortress which cannot be moved when the enemies assault it/us.
Recently a meeting was held at our Church and it brought in a bunch of people who had never been there before. One woman, accustomed to a far different "style" of Church than Lutheran, commented over and over again about the sense of peace, tranquility, and security she got at our Church. It was a comment made even though no she was not there to attend a worship service or, for that matter, for any overtly religious activity.
We have no video screens, the building does not look like the mall (inside or out), and the images our distinctly traditional (stained glass, very large Christus Rex, plaster and stenciling, kneelers, Jacobean frontals, candles, tabernacle, etc... Far from being put off by these things, she was attracted to them. They spoke to her of the "other" that the Church is and witnesses to while being in the world. They spoke to her of the idea of the Church (and God) as fortress, refuge, and strong-hold. They spoken to her of calm and continuity, of peace and presence. She will probably never become Lutheran but she seemed to get what a lot of Lutherans are missing.
So next time you sing "A Mighty Fortress" (sanitized words or traditianal, isometic or rhythmic tune), take a moment to read those words and listen to what they are saying. The world may be quite different from the day in which Luther penned that hymn and the situation facing the Church may be distinctly different than what faces us today, but we cry out for the same confident hiding place in the mercy of God, the same strong and powerful God who is able to defend and protect us, His children, and who provides a hiding place in the shadow of His wing to hold us, keep us, and protect us. Right now, this is the image that I desire and that I cling to most of all...