Saturday, April 16, 2016
When do I get to smash something. . .
The people were instinctively drawn to the one that was a gut job. When do I get to smash something? That was the big question. They could not wait to take up sledge hammer and tear down cabinets (which I have never understood since they could be re-purposed for a garage, etc...) or push down a wall or strip up flooring. There is something eminently satisfying about tearing something down, I will admit. But destruction is always the quick and easy part. A few days of demolition and then 6-8 weeks of construction before it becomes new again!
It seems to me that much of Trump's support among the alienated voters on the outs with Washington is the desire to tear down something. I can well understand it. I have also felt on the outside of the political enterprise with no one paying attention to the ordinary American, to the cause of faith in the public square, to the craziness that seems to preoccupy our judicial and social thinking, and to the social issues that are pandered to by those who seek election and forgotten after they are elected. I get that. But it is wrong headed to focus only on tearing things down. We must look to the outcome or we will be left with a greater mess, though a different one, than we have now.
Let me skip over to the realm of the Church. It is so easy to tear things down -- your local pastor, your local congregation, your district and Synod, etc... There is always something to complain about (and most of the complaints have some tie to reality -- after all we are sinners in a sinful world with sinful folks sitting beside us in the pew and sinner in the pulpit). The internet is filled with forums that complain and I suppose that is all well and good -- unless the only thing we do is complain.
On that TV remodeling reality show I began with, I note that the people with the sledge hammers generally leave the mess at some point and leave it to others to transform destruction into construction. That is so often the way it is in the Church. The complainers go in frustration and move on but they leave the mess behind, the fruits of their destructive bent. As I look around many congregations in our Synod I see parishes in disrepair, in various stages of deconstruction. It might have been caused by a pastor or parish leaders or people in the pew or the whispers of the anonymous. But meanwhile the congregation is left wounded and sore, crippled and in decline. It is always much easier to tear something down than to build it up again.
Maybe some of you think that is what I do here. I hope not. I will admit to off days when all I want to do is to take a sledge hammer to things. But I have also attempted to posit solutions, to suggest alternatives, and to try to find a way to be the Lutherans we say we are on paper and to do it with confidence in the means of grace and with courage before the naysayers.
Our Church does not need money to fix things but people -- people who rejoice in what Christ's death and resurrection have won, who know that they are unworthy sinners in whom God has delighted to show mercy and not condemnation, and who are fed upon the Word and the Sacraments. We need ordinary faithful people, living out in confidence their baptismal calling -- restored by Christ and equipped by the Spirit to live as children of our Heavenly Father. We need people who pray for their pastors, for their congregations, and for their church at large -- who hold up the arms of those whom the Lord has called through His Church to the pastoral office, just like Aaron did for Moses. We need people who will not think through the lens of their bitterness or disappointment or bruised egos but will seek the favor of the Lord, in confidence of His good and gracious will, and act through the obedience of faith to do His bidding for His glory in home/work, state, and church.
Tearing down is always quick, easy, and satisfying. But then you are left with a mess. We need people who will build up, edify, encourage, and to that which the Lord has called them to do in joyful spirit and with a willing heart. If those kinds of sinful folks inhabit pew and pulpit, we will have less to tear down and see more being built up among us and through us. Thanks be to God!