Thursday, April 4, 2013

A cause closer to the hearts of God's people...

We have heard it all before.  Sin does not sell well today.  Entertainment does.  Self-interest appeals.  And people define their self-interest not in terms of sin and redemption but "a better life now."  So many churches have given up on the call to repentance, on the Word of the cross, on the Gospel born of suffering and death for sin that cannot be wished away or fade away through avoidance.  Others have come to terms with death and made it natural to life.  Death is but one passage in a life of many passages, they say.  If you cannot avoid death, at least make it friendly.

Bishop Bo Giertz had his own journey from unbelief into a vigorous Lutheran faith and a robust sacramental piety -- going against the flow of culture and the cultural Christianity that loves the world as much as God.  In his daily devotional book, Att leva med Kristus:daglig läsning för trefaldighetstiden, published some forty years ago, he expounds on a daily basis the same warmth of faith and confessional practice most known through his work The Hammer of God.  Thankfully, this volume was published in English by CPH in 2008 as To Live with Christ.

It has become a favorite of mine (and my son's, as well).  Reading through the devotion from the Tuesday after the First Sunday in Lent, Bo Giertz tackles the subject of a cultural, me-centered Christianity with characteristic bluntness.  The Church must continue to preach repentance and faith even thought the world believes the Church must get with the times and engage a cause closer to the hearts of the people than the salvation of their souls.

According to Bo Giertz, this is the great temptation facing the Church.  We have preached and preached Christ and Him crucified and it seems we have made little progress, we have made little difference in the state of the world, and have little to show for all our efforts and energy.  Like Satan proposing that Jesus jump down from the top of the temple to both test the Lord and display His power, the Church is severely tempted to find something more relevant to preach and something more dramatic than the Divine Service.  

What would Bo Giertz think of his beloved Swedish Church?  It has long ago left behind the call to repentance and the Gospel of the Cross to become merely a social movement dedicated to the latest and greatest in pop psychology or social trend.  The words of this confessional Lutheran Bishop ring as true today as when he penned them forty years ago.  Our great temptation is to find and take up a cause closer to the hearts of God's people than the salvation of their souls.  But there is no cause more urgent, no need as great, and no purpose as high and noble as the proclamation of this saving Word, the means of grace that bestow what they promise, and the community created by the Spirit speaking through that Word.

That there may be a cause closer to the hearts of the people than the salvation of their souls is in little doubt.  Of course there is.  But that is the consequence of sin.  That there is another Gospel or another Word which the Church can or should proclaim may be in dispute but the Scriptures are clear.  There is only one Word that saves and that is the Word of the Cross, only one Christ and that is the Christ who is that Word made flesh, and only one crying need for a humanity captive to sin and its death, the salvation of souls.  We can choose not to listen to the Lord and to listen to our own hearts or the crying voices of the culture.  If we do, we have nothing to say of consequence and nothing to offer that can redeem us from this loss.  It is either Christ and the preaching of repentance and forgiveness in His name or we are have sold our birthright as the Church and gutted the message of its saving power.

Every age has faced this grave temptation but none more acutely than we face today.  God help us or surely we will become the very enemies of the truth we think we represent.    

1 comment:

Janis Williams said...

And this is why LCMS Lutherans must remain Lutheran (Confessional). There are many like myself & husband who have jumped the Evangelical ship, and the LCMS should be there with the life preserver they need.