Monday, July 9, 2018

The Self-Referential Life. . .

A case could well be made that sin is self-referential, that the rebellion in the Garden was not about seeking another god but about being gods, without the need to worship anyone but self.  The shape of sin has always been an unnatural and non-objective view of self, of life, and of everything.  The freedom of Christ is the freedom from self to see clearly and know fully the life that sin had kept hidden.  Though we speak of the hidden God, it was never God who was hidden but man who had hidden himself in the self-delusion of a world defined by me, judged by me, and which exists to serve me.

The role and purpose of the Church is to bring the means of grace to the sinner -- the Word and Sacraments through whom the Spirit works to release us from our captivity to self and from the bondage of fear.  The old self, hopelessly and helplessly condemned, is killed in baptism and a new person created in Christ Jesus for good works springs from this watery tomb and womb.  Good works are the opposite of the self-referential life -- the right hand unknowing of the left even to the point where when God points to them the redeemed of the Lord respond in utter disbelief when, Lord?

So when the Church adopts the language of the self-referential life, when we institutionalize this self-referential life and make worship about you, glorify the deity of preference, and place the presence of God in feeling or experience, we rob the people of God of their very baptismal gift and lead them instead into the same old prison of me.

We meet the child with the kind of care that refuses to allow a whimper much less the real tears of a cry.  We teach them from the earliest of ages that they are better, smarter, more beautiful, and destined for greater things than any child before them.  We defend them against all intrusions of reality about self, limitation, and sin under the guise of protecting them.  We refuse parental roles of discernment and place them before the holy screens of our entertainment -- complete with all its adult themes and suggestions.  We dress them as they want to be dressed and pad their pockets with enough cash to make them happy and keep them from intruding on our happiness.  We tell them at graduation that they can do whatever they want, that their hearts are the most reliable voices to listen to, and that above all they need to be true to self (usually defined as desire).  We send them to work in jobs that are judged more by money and satisfaction than by productivity or usefulness to the common good and we tell them that they only have to put up with work so long before they will be free to resume their childhood in retirement.  We tell them that marriage is optional but pleasure essential and if husband or wife or cohabiting partner fails to make them happy, or, God forbid, makes them sad, then it is not worth fixing and you may discard it at will.  We tell them that children have little to do with love or marriage but everything to do with their happiness and we make those children into products designed to order by reproductive technology.  We make the church relevant buy pandering to their desires, giving cover to their sins, making worship into entertainment and the Word of God into self-help text to achieve your goals, and then we give them the opportunity to tell their own story (so that God won't get all the time in the spotlight).  We have placed in them the expectation that life is fair, that the world can be made just and good, and that the biggest problems are climate change and what to do with plastics (certainly not sin and death).  When they decide life is too much, we tell them that medicine exists to relieve their pain -- perhaps even ultimately.  When they die, we gather to tell all over again the ups and downs of their life in stories designed to make us laugh in our sorry -- for if we smile in death it will surely all be okay.  Who needs the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting?  We have memories.

The Gospel is the opposite of the self-referential life.  Jesus is the example of the most un-self-referential life.  Those who are baptized into His death and resurrection, who rise to new life in Him as His very own, and then by faith take up their cross, deny themselves, and follow Him. . .they live the new and free life that references Christ above all.  The life of faith is defined by John the Baptist -- HE must increase...I must decrease.  Until we stop baptizing the old Adam without actually killing him, we will have nothing to offer the world but a soft echo of their own self-referential lives.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

The original sin of Adam and Eve was pride. They wanted to be like
God, that is they wanted to be as smart and wise as God. By eating
the forbidden fruit they rebelled against God's command not to eat
it.

Anonymous said...

“Until we stop baptizing the old Adam without actually killing him...”

Pastor Peters, Holy Baptism is the work and power of the Word of God and not our work. Does the Holy Spirit create faith and sanctify the whole Christian Church on earth only to allow those sanctified to return to the trough? I know the answer because I lived it and ate the pods of my own self-indulgence even after being baptized in a Lutheran Church at the age of nine years before trekking back to the Father as a young adult. I was called a second time and heard His voice by the grace of God. Since returning from the far country I read Hebrews 6:4-6 which haunts me to this day.

4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

And yet, I sing, “God’s own child l gladly say it, I am Baptized into Christ!

Lutheran Lurker said...

To anonymous above. . .

Baptizing the old Adam instead of killing him does NOT refer to actual baptism but to the way the Church is tempted to adopt the ways of sin and evil and call them good instead of calling them out and condemning them... for example the changes in sex, gender, and marriage is one example where many Christians have not stood the ground of Scripture but simply adopted, aka baptized, the ways of the world into their church and faith... Pastor Peters is not talking about actually baptizing and that baptism failing to do what it promised but baptism in a metaphoric sense.