Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What is it that bends. . .

For a long time I have struggled to hold my tongue for those who complain about their busy lives and how something must give, something must bend.  Because I can only sleep in on Sunday morning, worship must bend.  Because my kids sports/dance/etc. is more important than their faith, catechism must give.  Because I have limited financial resources, stewardship must give.  Because I work full time and have too many demands, time for church activities or service must give.

I will admit to getting pretty dang tired of the Church always being the one that bends.  Some years ago The Lutheran featured an article from a sports mother defending her choice to support her kids childhood sports interests over worship, catechism, Sunday school, and anything to do with church.  It appalled me that a national Lutheran (or any denominational magazine) publication would give such a platform to such a ridiculous assertion.  But I was unprepared for the mass number of letters from those who wrote in to support her and who insisted they felt no guilt in their choice, none whatsoever.

It is always the church, the faith, worship, catechesis, and service that must give way to me.  Jesus wondered if He might find faith(ful) on earth when He returned in glory and Luther also wondered (among others) if the number of Christians are few.  On my mostly curmudgeonly days I am sure of it.

But it is not only participation in the life of the church that must bend, truth must also bend.  Scripture is sometimes regarded with more skepticism inside the doors of the sanctuary than it is outside and Christians seem to relish the idea that their truth is one person wide and one person deep.  We delight in every historical challenge to Christianity as if it were a house of cards wavering and waiting for the right tidbit of archeology to bring it all down (Spong's assertion that eventually the bones of Jesus will be found somewhere in Palestine).

So also, even though evolution is an unobserved and unproven theory, Scripture must bend to the latest derivation of an idea barely a few hundred years old.  How is it that people can claim to believe that God can come in flesh and blood to the womb of the Virgin and die upon a cross and rise on the third day but find it impossible to believe that Scripture speaks anything but symbolic language when it comes to the creation of all things?  Ah, yes, wisdom tilts toward reason and away from faith so Scripture is a bendable truth which must conform to and fit what we have already thought about this or this -- especially when it comes to science (factual or theoretical).

Years ago we gave out kids these bendable figures made from plastic but with a wire "spine" that allowed them to be bent and shaped as people desired.  Gumby and Pokey came in forms like this.  Eventually the wire inside gave way and the plastic that surrounded it was not enough to hold it all together.  So it is with truth that must constantly bend to other truths or faith which is compelled to flex when schedules and priorities compete, they eventually break and give way and there is nothing left but trash to be discarded.  Piety is the plastic and the Scripture is the metal spine of the faith for all the faithful.  When the spine is broken from too much bending, the plastic is not enough to hold faith together and they become the faithless.

Maybe it is high time that we as Pastors, parents, and parish leaders took the bold but unpopular stance of refusing to bend.  I am certain it would thin out the ranks of membership to say to those preoccupied with their own concerns or their children's activities if we said we will not bend to you anymore.  I am confident that the church would suffer a reputation of anti-intellect, anti-scholarship, and anti-science if we insisted that the Word of the Lord prevail against human observance, theory, and estimation.  But what would we really lose and what might we gain?

1 comment:

Janis Williams said...

Let's get the DeLorean up to 88mph.

I agree, let's get back to informing people of their responsibilities. It's sad when we only have a handful for services outside of Sunday (don't know how many have had a look of surprise and said, "we have a Thursday service?"). Most excuses for Sunday failure to attend wouldn't fly with a boss or coach.

At least most people have the real excuse of being at work for Thursdays.

Sports moms and dads know if you miss too much practice, you don't play. I guess loss of one's faith is not a serious enough consequence....