Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Royal Waste of Time

Well, its Sunday morning and soon the building will be filled with people wasting their time -- royally.  And how wonderful it is!  A few days ago I was pointed to a couple of blog posts about the pointless nature of the Church and who she is and what she does.  Far from apologizing, the authors suggest that the Church should be the one place without vision, mission statement, supporting goals, and plan.  Not that strikes many as being anathema in a world where a modified business model of structure and plan has become the holy grail of modern Christianity.  But I think there is something to this.

There are simply too many people on all sides of the dogma debates and worship wars who try to make an agenda for the Church.  There is simply too much talk out there about the need to be mission focused or purposeful in all the Church is and does.  There is simply too much emphasis on goals and outcomes that have stolen the purpose of worship from the Lord and turned it into one of many programs that fall under the umbrella of "Church."

Though not a particular fan of Marva Dawn, she hit upon one great title when she wrote about A Royal "Waste" of Time.  There is simply no way to explain or justify or support taking time away from yourself or your family or your work and spend it in worship, prayer, and devotion.  It is a worthless activity according to the world and down deep you know there is a part of you that fully agrees with this assessment.  Christianity is not a "practical" religion in the sense of helping you achieve your goals.  Christianity has been co-opted by those who would make it into a program that has goals, purposes, and a means of evaluation. 

Some would make these entirely personal and some would make them more social, but they think the key to growing the Church is convincing people that worship is worthwhile, that prayer is worth the time and effort, and devotion is worth the hard work of making it happen.  In order to do this, worship, prayer, and devotion must have tangible results and measurable results.  In other words, if we can just prove to folks that you get something tangible and real out of it, something practical and useful, something that will help you get what you want, the Church will grow.  If you go to Church you will live longer, be happier, have a better marriage, turn out better kids, get ahead at work, have a better financial status, be free to explore the fullness of your human life, and make a lasting and real difference in this world.

Others would make the Church's purpose and impact mostly social. The world is filled with problems and the Church is filled with answers so if we could just get folks into the Church some of the social problems in our world would go away and the family would be better equipped to contribute to the good of society or the needs of the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, the different, etc. would be protected, upheld, and supplied.

But I think such promises are false and deceptive.  The point of Church is not a better or more happy you or a better or more happy world.  The point of the Church is to be the arena in which Christ is source and center, fountain and summit.  The whole point of who the Church is and what she does is not me but Jesus Christ.  When we turn the Church into another place where you get something you want or need, then we have turned Christ into a commodity and the Gospel into a marketing plan.  The Church no longer becomes the Church when this identity takes hold and the programs of the Church -- our programs -- become more important faithfulness to Christ.

I can offer you no barometers to gauge the success of who the Church is or what she does -- other than the Gospel rightly proclaimed and the Sacraments rightly administered.  Apart from these, the goals are distinctly man centered.  We have no target range for growth, no evaluative machinery, no practical application from Scripture.  What we have are the Word and the Sacraments -- the means of grace -- that deliver to us what it is that Christ won for us.  Some of His gifts are distinctly impractical -- forgiveness, for example.  But they are what He knows we need -- even if we are not so sure for ourselves.

What happens on Sunday morning is not evangelism or education or therapy or motivation... or any other ism or tion.  What happens on Sunday morning is that Christ bids us come because He is there.  It is implausible to our minds, impractical to our hearts, and incomprehensible to explain to others.  It just is.  That is why the efficacy of His Word is of far more importance than ending the war because we have won the inerrancy debate.  True.  Yes.  But for what purpose this truth and what is this truth?  That God keeps His promise, that His Word accomplishes whereof it speaks, and that Christ is that Word.

The Divine Service is a pointless activity and a royal waste of time -- except that Jesus Christ is there, speaking through His Word, cleansing through His Water, restoring through His absolution, and nourishing through His Table.  I am not saying that it is all impractical or other worldly but this is not a commodity to be sold or a program that convinces us because there is something in it for me.  This is something radically different and until we begin to realize this, we will be left with marketing plans instead Gospel proclamation, with programs instead of worship, and with incremental human goals instead of the radical power of grace.


Ted Badje said...

Too often, even in confessional, Lutheran churches, the Word becomes captive to various agendas. That is our sinful human nature, even with pastors proclaiming the Word. A prayer must be said before every service that the service would show the sole purpose of presenting Christ in Word and Sacrement.

Cuisapiunt blog said...

I believe Bill Gates said he had no time for religion because it was not productive?

Anonymous said...

Several years ago in a Time Magazine
interview it was Bill Gates who said
that he did not attend Sunday Worship
because he could do more productive
things with his time.

Marva Dawn has written several books
on the importance of traditional
worship as opposed to contemporary
worship. She is a first-rate and
well-read scholar with Lutheran roots.

Paul said...

Must reading for all Lutheran Christians:) Hopefully, with our new LCMS leadership, this will be more and more the order of the day, our modus operandi as it were.

Anonymous said...

So many people don't care about global warming. They disregard the need for conservation and instead drive SUVs. They don't care about the Federal deficit/debt (outside of partisanship) and they don't care earning $400k for an $80,000/year job will eventually bankrupt the country. They have awarded themselves $400k pay and retirement packages, loading up their friends on the payroll during the boom 90s through the real estate bust while all services which the program were intended to fund now get cut to pay for it.
These people are often common public university labor. Not Ivy League, not private university.
This labor isn't good enough to earn the salaries they are earning. And they understood this when they applied to the public university they settled on.
You can't expect a top-tier salary with a second-rate education.
They think they are going sometime during/at the end of this life, and disregard the poor souls who are left behind.
Sounds like the Italians who were used to plan World War II and the Holocaust, and not by accident.
These are the people who will be here in the United States when bankruptcy is declared and society deteriorates into chaos. And they will deserve the anarchy which ensues.

The gods used the Italians to ruin life in the 20th century.
The gods used the Italians to ruin life in A.D. with The Church.
The Church controlled Western Civilization. As the largest land owner in Europe they controlled the monarchies. They were responsbile for slavery, revenge for African invasion and rape of Italy. They created religious discontent, ultimately leading to the disfavored dumping ground known as the United States.
And each generation of these Italians were sold on "earning", only to be reincarnated as a lesser life form subsequently, punishment for their evil.
"The West Bank, where the end of the world will begin." With xtianity.

The gods are the commensurate rapist pathology, focussed on control.
It is appropriate they picked the Italians for the downfall of man. The perception offered is exactly how the gods are. Unfortunate for the Italians, they were deliberately altered to match this pathology so the god's behavior could be justified in the context of the god's positioning.

I may not have learned as much as I have but I WOULD have gotten more done and made more progress, and at the end of this life that's all that matters. We will all be reincarnated and must re-learn about the gods and their methodology in each sucessive life.
The upside down star is my symbol. There is of course no Satan. That's just the gods with different clothes on.
You're all in big, big trouble. Everyone who failed to ascend before 1900 is. But the importance of this Situation is to ensure people learn the god's system while they have enough time to fix their relationship and ascend before The End.
Don't forget:::Ascending into "heaven" is not the same as entering clone hosting. One is good while the other is evil. The clue is their request to work multiple clone hosts to "earn", for if you were welcome into heaven you would be invited directly. My example of someone who ascended is John Muir. His "fake" went on to accomplish BUT NOT IN A DISCIPLINE WHICH HURT PEOPLE OR PROVIDED FOR SOME TEMPTATION. What happens after speaks volumes.
You're on the clock. This is where the cream rises to the top.