Saturday, September 28, 2013
Hubris, Arrogance, and Infatuation . . . with me and my moment
C.S. Lewis once labelled such hubris of the moment “chronological snobbery... the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited.” In other words, the past must also prove itself against a heart set in principle toward the present. We think those tied to the past as such dinosaurs and we wait almost gleefully for the signs of their coming extinction. Yet it is the tyranny of the present that deserves to die. Trend and fad, especially in religion, die an unnaturally quick death and live but a brief life. Nothing is new for long.
It makes me wish that our Lord would never have sung or said such things about a "new song." We use this as a premise to justify our abuse of the living legacy of the saints, discarding them and their witness as old news. The ELCA is meeting now in Pittsburgh under the theme "Always being made new..." The clothes of yesterday do not fit our modern style and so we take whatever the Lord has said about a "new thing" and presume it to mean whatever fits today and feels good in the moment. Never mind that the "new thing" the Lord is doing nearly always revolves around the fulfillment of His promise and the gift of a Savior who is His Son in our flesh and blood. Nope, we don't want an old "new" thing but "new" new things.
Inside this is the weak underbelly of fear that belies the modern church. We are so afraid of being outmoded, of falling behind, of being deemed irrelevant, that we pursue that which is "new" in exchange for the eternity which God gives -- that which changes not. So we are always second guessing ourselves, always asking, as did old Mayor Koch, "How am I doin?" The problem is that we ask those outside the church, the pagans, if you will, who have already said "no" to the eternal which is Christ. We ought to be asking the Lord but we readily exchange His "well done" for a brief shining moment when the world says we are cool, relevant, and worthy.
Our constant obsession over what those outside us think of us, is the great temptation of the moment, Cut loose from the anchor of forever, we have only this moment. So we ask the wrong people the wrong question. We are obsessed with how we are perceived and tweak the message and the medium to improve our customer response scores. We are forever posting photos of just how with it we are, so desperate to retain the fresh look of the contemporary, we Photoshop who we are, what we believe, and how we worship to meet the moment. We are image conscious instead of being consumed with faithfulness to the Lord. We monitor like the NSA what people think of us, how they see us, and what we need to change so more of them will friend us.
Lutherans should be more mindful of the fallacy of this predilection toward the moment than others since it is our battle cry that we invented nothing, we followed no novelty, and we are completely uncreative when it comes to what is believed, confessed, taught, and practiced. We said in our Confessions that the only new worth perusing is the one, catholic and apostolic faith. The LCMS once insisted that we bring a changeless Christ to a changing world. Now we are gravely tempted to the captivity of the moment or, worse, to the church as it was like when we were young. A short term memory whether over the past fifteen minutes or fifteen years is as big a curse as they come. When we remember no further back than Walther, when we imagine in our minds the dream of a church when we were fifteen, when sway to the beat of our favorite tunes on Sunday morning, we are all hearing the same drummer, just beating at different speeds.
The Church has a future. It is sealed in Christ. We do not have cave to the moment, to the recent past, or even to a hundred years ago. Because we have the changeless Christ who is yesterday, today, and forever the same, we have tomorrow already in hand. We can afford to be patient. We can afford to look past the stats of the last ten seconds or ten years. We look to the Word, preach it in season and out, when people want to hear and refuse to listen. Its relevance is not based on their perception but upon its efficacy -- its power to deliver what it says. We may add a bit to the past but it is always a small contribution to that the faithful saints have bequeathed by their faithful confession and service. And this is always enough. Enough for us to endure. Enough for us to do His bidding. Enough to prevail against the gates of hell. Enough for God to do what He desires, intends, and promises. Market research is nothing in the face of the Word of the Lord that endures forever...