Monday, October 28, 2013

Different perspectives yield different perceptions. . .

From the outside Christianity appears rather homogenous, monolithic, and consistent.  From within it seems a bundle of contradictions.  From the outside the Church appears rigid and unbending.  From within she seems to have a backbone made of silly putty.  From the outside a congregation may appear to be a loving and caring community.  From within it is like a pond of alligators,  From the outside the Church appears as if she will never change or yield to modernity.  From within she seems like nothing is steadfast and unmovable except change. It all depends on your perspective.

If you are an idealist, the church seems incredibly messy, disappointing, and ineffective.  If you are a realist, the church seems incredibly naive and fanciful.  If you are in the majority, think of all the things you could get done without such a noisy and belligerent minority.. If you are in the minority, you think of all the terrible things done and how to undo them and steal the momentum away from the majority.  If you are a congregationalist, you long for a real bishop.  If you have bishops, you often hope they will find something else to do besides bother your congregation.  If you have money, you think that is all the church wants from you.  If you don't, you wonder where you are going to get the money you need.  It all depends upon your perspective.

I find that age does not automatically bestow wisdom but it does give you a bit of a larger perspective on things.  On the one hand it can teach patience.  One of the things you learn with age is that Rome was not built in a day.  I have learned that the Church was there before me and will remain after me -- and not because of me but perhaps in spite of me.  On the other hand, it can also lead to impatience.  One of the things you learn with age is that time marches on.  I have also learned that I want to see progress in part because I know I may not be here to see the ending.

To those who think that Lutheranism is a hopeless mess, I tell you it is.  To those who think that Lutheranism is a bright shining light in darkness, I tell you it is.  It is both or it is neither.  So do not despair because we reflect our fallen humanity as the children of God and do not lose sight of the means of grace that are our treasure and hope.  We are sinners redeemed by Christ, by baptism carrying around in us the death of Christ and His life.  So be patient.  The future is not lost even though we are flawed and failed sinners whom the Lord has redeemed.  It is His Church.  His promise is our future and the guarantee of that future is also His.

When we look from different perspectives, we see different things and we come up with differing perceptions of it all.  We need to be careful lest we judge lost what Christ has redeemed or inconsequential what is His greatest gift.  We live not by sight but by faith and that requires some patience.

Learn to love the Church as she is and not as you want her to be.  I do not mean at all to suggest that you have no aspirations or dreams for her, but do not love contingent upon those dreams or aspirations.  I have encountered some who have loved the dream of the Church but their love was soured on her reality.  They are embittered folks whose misery and disappointment predominates everything they see and hear.  Some of those have left Missouri, shaken off the dust from their boots, and walked away.  Some insist upon justifying their leaving by trashing the church they once knew and loved.  Some who remain are more than happy to have folks leave and judge such departures as their winning a competition or an argument.  I lament everyone who leaves for I daily wrestle with the same kind of tension between the church of my dreams and the congregation, district, and synod of reality.

If you love her, you will love her as she is and not as you want her to be.  Do not forsake your dreams for her but love the church for who she is -- as broken, wounded, stained, stubborn, and sore as the people who come to her.  And, if you are wise, you will see that you are no different.

Just a few words that I say to myself a couple of hundred times a day... and now to you.


3 comments:

Dr.D said...

"If you are a congregationalist, you long for a real bishop."

That's not the way I understand the word "congregationalist." I thought that congregationalists were strong on demanding congregational autonomy, and resented anything that smacked of a central authority, the sort of thing that a bishop represents.

Fr. D+
Anglican Priest

Anonymous said...

or perhaps he means the grass is always greener?

Paul Walters said...

Ten Quick thoughts on getting the most out of your church

http://tinyurl.com/makechurchwork