A gazillion people have noted the trend in culture and religion that avoids the clear yes or no for the uncertain realm of feelings or wants. It is nothing new. But it is funny when you think about it (funny as in weird) how uncomfortable we are speaking in direct terms what Jesus has called us to speak directly. We betray either a lack of understanding or confidence in Jesus' words when we feel more comfortable in declaring rather than doing.
Example. Some baptismal formulas have changed from I baptize you... to You are baptized... or, the most common area in which this shows up, in the absolution. We find it uncomfortable to say I forgive you and instead You are forgiven or I declare God's forgiveness to you.
Some insist there isn't a dime's worth of difference between them but if not, why are we so uncomfortable speaking clearly as Christ has bidden us? When in the Gospels Jesus speaks of whatsoever sins you forgive He is speaking not of simply declaring grace but speaking the words that deliver that grace of forgiveness to those weighed down by sin and its guilt.
The words that Christ has given us to speak to His Church and to the world are not passive but powerful. The witness of the Church is not to what we think or feel or even know -- it is to what Christ has done... Christ has promised.
Check out the ways in which we talk about sin without addressing the sinner with the Law. We have turned confession into a lack of something instead of the corruption of our nature, the offense against God that has made us His enemies, and the barriers that wall us off from Him who created us and from the rest of creation. Scripture addresses sin directly -- but not to make sin the subject, rather to make forgiveness the subject. We cannot focus on forgiveness without a clear focus on sin.
Check out the ways in which we forgive without forgiving. When people hurt us and apologize, we say "That's okay." Well it is not okay. If it were okay then there would not be sin. God does not shrug His shoulders to our confession and tell us that "it is okay." God confronts us with the terrible that sin is and then speaks the word of mercy and love that trumps sin's terror -- the cross. You are guilty as hell (literally) but I forgive you because of my Son in whom I am well pleased.
Check out the ways in which we dance around Christ's presence without admitting that it is a presence to be dealt with -- to be reckoned with. Christ is present with or in but not to be adored and not so that the bread or cup is something in and of itself to be treated differently. Either it is the Body and Blood of Christ, by the power of that Word, from the time that Word is spoken, until the use of the Sacrament is complete (in reception) or else Christ's words are merely symbolic of the sign that is pointed to but not present.
The worship wars have told us many things, but one of them is that we have an inward struggle to speak as Jesus spoke or bids His people to speak -- directly, clearly, dynamically... Most of the confessions that are written treat sin as if it were a slight defect of intention or follow through that we should improve upon -- not the damming and life taking sin of Scripture. Most of the absolutions do not not absolve but simply declare God's grace to the sinner as if that is all we can do -- and wait for the sinner to find peace in these words. Most of the practices around the Lord's Table act as if the bread were to Christ no more than the plate is to the bread, the wine to His blood no more than the cup is to the wine. So what we do with it before or after the distribution is of nothing but symbolic consequence.
Do we take His Word at face value? Does the Church simply declare to us what we already know or do for us what Christ does? Is the power to declare or to do Christ's work among His people?
Just a few thoughts on a Saturday morning. . .