Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Caught in the Prison of the Present

Larry Rast (new Pres of Concordia Theological Seminary) has a great post about a man who lost his memory, who lives only in the present.  Far from being freedom, this is the worst kind of prison.  Without a past, he has no gauge to judge the present and no compass to set the future.  What was a great tragedy for a man, is a major crisis for a church.  Yet some seem oblivious to it all.

On another forum I once posted a challenge to a church that brought people to Jesus but did not connect them with the Church (the historic Church of community, creed, confession, means of grace, liturgy, hymnody, etc.).  It grew into a discussion of whether or not a church needed to be connected to the Church -- that is, what is so wrong with being a church (congregation) disconnected from the great tradition of the Church?  Alas, I seem not to have made much headway there.

We cannot afford to imprison ourselves in the present tense.  We cannot afford to walk always through new trails.  We cannot afford to be wed to the moment.  This is not an argument from personal taste or style but goes to the very core of who we are as Christians.  We have no present without our tie to the past (this is not only to the past event of the cross and empty tomb but to the Church which Christ established, upon which He has given the promise of His protection against the gates of hell, and to which He has bestowed the means of grace in order for the Church to do His bidding).  We walk always in the footsteps of our fathers for doctrine does not develop or grow but is a given from God and continually needs to be reclaimed and restored when the temptation and urge to detour comes to us.  We are not wed to the moment but the Bride of Christ for all eternity, who makes her way through time and history from the point at which she was created, cleansed, and dressed for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb until the day when the promise is fulfilled for all eternity.  Unless we are at home in the house of our fathers, we are orphans and strangers to all that God has done and all that He has given and continues to bestow upon His people, the children of His promise.

It is so gosh darn frustrating that this becomes an argument about aesthetics or style or taste or culture.  We have far more to lose that familiarity with a page number in the hymnal or a hymn from the ages or Pastor's pretty clothes.  This is about our childish bent to refuse our very heritage and identity.  Even when we do not walk away from the sacred deposit and the living legacy of tradition, we act like teenagers who sneak out after dark to dance with the devil a little bit only to sneak back in and act as if nothing has happened.  The worst prison we can live in is not our peace with our past or our yearning for the future -- rather, it is our marriage to the moment in which we live as orphans from our family and without the ability to pass on a future generation or the living legacy of our eternal hope.

So often this shows up in parents who do not want to force religion upon their children but want them to make their own "choice" -- but raised outside the veil of the faith as foreigners to the House of God, how can they know what is there or choose for themselves?  We have left them adrift by stealing from them their past and we have left them rudderless by sealing them off from their future and they have only one thing left -- the present moment.  They multi-task, they live to pack the moment with as much as they can, they cannot afford to deny any desire or want, and they seek pleasure most of all -- not because they are worse than we were but because we have imprisoned them in the moment.

Far from being freedom, this is the worst kind of prison.  Without a past, the church has no gauge to judge the present and no compass to set the future.  She is adrift upon the moment and the most important thing to her is the passing tick tock of the clock and the need to live on the edge of the moment in time that is her only possession.... 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In his 2nd Epistle, the Apostle
Peter confronts false teachers who
scoff at the idea that Christ will
return to judge the world. Peter
reminds them of Old Testament history
when God judged the evil angels by
casting them into hell, by sending a
flood upon the world of the ungodly,
by turning the cities of Sodom and
Gomorrah into ashes.

The point is this: God is a God of
history. We can not ignore the
past. He not only condemned sin
but the Good News is that He kept
His promises and sent a Savior,
Jesus Christ to redeem us from sin.
We need to understand the past to
live in the present and to prepare
for the future. This is the only
way you can live the Christian
lifestyle as you put your trust and
faith in Christ who is the same
yesterday, today and forever.