Saturday, July 11, 2009

New! Quick! Easy!

I just glanced at some junk mail that came to the Church. It ranged from NEW confirmation programs to QUICK ways to build up financial giving to an EASY way to set up a web page (and this one also mentioned it was inexpensive). Even in the Church we are attracted to things new, things quick, and things easy --and if they are cheap, well, then they are even better.

I guess that is the way of life. We spend extra money on new things and even wait in line for them. We all love things quick (from weight loss to meal prep). We want to be able to do thinks quickly -- without waiting (from learning a language to playing a musical instrument). And who does not love a bargain.

But... It strikes me that few things worthy while are new, quick, and easy. In fact the most important lessons in life are things tried and true, things that take an investment of time and energy, and things that require something of us.

The same is true of Christian faith and Christian worship. Some folks worry about faith and worship being made too difficult for new people. Some are all bent out of shape because the hymns need to be learned, the liturgy is unfamiliar, and even the language is jargon that must be learned anew. I must confess that I do not worry much about this at all. To be sure, I worry that we are not welcoming, that we are not attentive to new folks and that we are often unwilling to take them under our wing and teach them -- but I seldom worry that it is not new, quick or easy.

Just the opposite -- I worry that we make faith and life in Christ too easy. So easy that when the first trouble or trial rounds the bend, the people are quick to dump their new found faith because it was not as easy as they had been led to believe.

Christian faith is hard -- recall the disciples always saying to Jesus "This is a hard saying -- what does it mean?" Faith is hard not because it requires so much from us -- the Spirit does the heavy lifting here. Faith is hard because it requires of us that we let go of our incessant demand to control and manipulate. Faith is waiting upon the Lord -- Lord knows we don't like waiting.

Worship is not quick or easy. I resent the unwritten rule of 59 minute worship services. We spend more time than that in the bathroom in a given day. Why must God punch a time clock? We spend in worship the time we need to spend to be fair to His Word read and proclaimed and to be fair to His Table. We do not rush things -- when you rush them you miss too much a long the way. And it is not easy. It takes repetition and doing it many times over before it becomes easy. That is not wrong -- it just is. So I counsel new folks to come often and participate fully for a long while before making any judgments.

Christian faith is not new; we do not reinvent the wheel every time we get in a car -- neither do we reinvent our lives of worship every time we walk through the door to the Church. We take was has come before us. We add to it from the best of the present age. We pass on to those yet to come this richness of tradition and the best from the present. Christian faith is not quick -- it is not like learning the rules to a new game. Faith is a long process of becoming where God is the power and the agent at work in us by baptism. Through Him, with Him and in Him we live out the life restored to us as a gift of Christ in baptism. It is always a work in progress -- at least until we fall asleep in the arms of our Savior only to awaken to eternal life. Christian faith is not easy. It requires from us the hardest thing that we do -- confession, repentance, and dependence upon grace.

So you won't find any promises of some thing NEW this Sunday... or something quick (instantaneous self-gratification)... or something easy... We will work at receiving what has been passed down to us, work at the practice of this thing call Christian life, and buckle down to give our all to singing, speaking, praying, and serving.


Catholic Rambler said...

Faith isn't difficult; it's impossible. That is why the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith. The impossibility of faith demands that it be a gift, by grace. But I understand what you are saying.

I love this church. Since we began coming here, I look forward eagerly to the Lord's Day, for Him to serve me. I need that. There is a sort of sadness when the Divine Service is completed for it necessitates a leaving and going out, but that is something necessary.

Janis Williams said...

Ever read William Willemon's "Strange Speech: Preaching to the Baptized?" Great book, and a very surprizing Methodist Bishop!