Friday, June 7, 2013
Makes no sense. . .
It should not surprise us. Jesus Himself insists that His Gospel makes sense only to the dying. Oh, Jesus put it slightly differently. He is the Great Physician who has come for the sick, those who know they are ill unto death, and not for the righteous... But we have forgotten much of what Jesus said and what He meant by this. We have instead moved in the direction of a Jesus who is come to reward the good with more, not the Jesus who rescues the dead from their trespasses and body of death.
Worship has become something that must be intelligible to the man on the street, something that offers good to the good, better to the striving, and best to those who heed His Word (obedience). But to the wounded, to the hopeless, to the dying... there is only a question. Why is my life not better?
But to the dying, to the wounded, to the sinner carrying a load of guilt, and to those who have given up on a better life now, the Divine Service speaks, sings, and prays the good news that is beyond imagination. The Pharisee has no need of this. He has his works. The righteous have no need of this. He has his good life. The whole have no need of this. He sees himself as well. The living, who looks for more of what he has, has no need of this. He has his good life now, getting better each day in some small way...
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Rod Rosenbladt: "Christianity is for dying."
So true. From the appearance of most Evanjellycal churches, no one is dying! If you believe Joel Osteen, you just have to watch what you say, and always affirm you are healthy. Will be interesting to see what happens as the baby boomers (seeker sensitives) die off.
I'm waiting for Joel's first gray hair and wrinkle, to see what he says about it.
"a dying man among dying men"
A great quote from Richard Baxter, author of The Reformed Pastor.
Your last paragraph particularly reminded me of the Gospel lesson for the first Sunday after Trinity, St. Luke, 14:19-31. This is the story of Lazarus and Dives, the poor beggar and the rich man. The rich man, as we remember, feasts every day while the poor man has nothing during this life. In the afterlife, the rich man is in hell, and sees the poor man in the bosom of Abraham, comforted and well. He asks for help from Lazarus, but of course, he cannot get it.
We in America are all Dives to some degree, feasting and ignoring those less well off. Our abundance truly dulls our senses to the fact that we are all dying men, dying sinners approaching death and God's judgement upon us. We too have Moses and the prophets, and we further have One who rose from the dead, Jesus Christ. We MUST hear them, for the sake of our souls!
If it is true that “… to the dying, to the wounded, to the sinner carrying a load of guilt, and to those who have given up on a better life now, the Divine Service speaks, sings, and prays the good news that is beyond imagination,” then if a person should be healed of these ills by the Great Physician, is there any reason for that person to come back to the Divine Service, inasmuch as he is no longer one of the “dying, wounded, or carrying a load of guilt” for whom the service is intended? Or is there no healing until we enter Paradise?
Is it not true that besides those who are “dying, wounded, and sinners carrying a load of guilt,” there are those whom the Great Physician has healed? Scripture calls them “the children of God”. They are the Baptized, of whom it is said, Colossians 1:13, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Or is the truth that all the children of God must continue to be ones who are, “dying, wounded, or carrying a load of guilt” throughout their lifetimes?
I return again and again to that wonderful quotation, “Certainly we must never conceive ‘salvation’ in purely negative terms, as if it consisted only of our rescue from sin, guilt, wrath and death. We thank God that it is all these things. But it also includes the positive blessing of the Holy Spirit to regenerate, indwell, liberate and transform us.” (John R. W. Stott, Baptism and Fullness. The Work of the Holy Spirit today. Inter Varsity Press, P. 25, 26.)
Here is what the Great Physician says about those in His Kingdom, Matthew 11: 28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." And Luke 15: 22 "But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'” and , John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly,” and, John 16:24, “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.”
Finally, a passage from the diary of the late Fr. Alexander Schmemann:
“12 October 1976
The origin of “false religion” is the inability to be joyful, or rather – the rejection of joy. Meanwhile joy is so absolutely important, because it is without doubt the fruit of knowing the presence of God. It is impossible to know that God is, and not to have joy. And it is only in connection with this joy that awe of God, contrition and humility are proper and genuine and bear fruit. Apart from this joy these can easily become a “demonic”, a perversion at the base of the most religious experience itself. The religion of fear. The religion of false humility. The religion of guilt, which says, “This is all temptation, it is all spiritual “rapture.” But how strong is this religion, not only in the world but within the Church! And for some reason, “religious” people are always suspicious of joy. The first, the most important, the source of everything is, “Let my soul rejoice in the Lord …” The fear of sin does not prevent one from sinning. Joy in the Lord does.
Feelings of guilt and moralism do not “free” us from the world and its temptations. Joy is the foundation of the freedom in which we are called to stand. Where, how, and when did this “fundamental principle” of Christianity become muddy, or more correctly, where, how, and why have Christians become “deaf” to it? How, when and why, instead of setting free the tortured, did the Church begin to sadistically frighten and to terrorize them?”
Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart
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