Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Fish Out of Water. . .

In a letter to his youngest son, Christopher, J. R. R. Tolkien wrote, "I imagine the fish out of water is the only fish to have an inkling of water.”  It is one of the small but profound gems of wisdom from the likes of Tolkien (and, of course, his friend C. S. Lewis).  Tolkien found himself a man born out of time -- out of step with the world around him.  He was a romantic in an age of war and brutality the likes the world had never seen before.  He was chivalrous in an age with the beginnings of feminism and the decline of propriety.  He was modest in an age of immodesty.  I have often expressed the same thought.

There is a part of me that truly does believe that not much good music has come after the nineteenth century (at least not in comparison to that which came before, especially in an era of Pachelbel, Bach, Schuetz, etc...).  There is a part of me that truly does wish I live in the era of Lutheranism that Bach knew in Leipzig or sometime prior to Lutheranism's discomfort with its own Confessions and confessional practice.  I am uncomfortable not by the myriad of choices available on cable TV but that we have used them so poorly that I settle for watching Gold Rush or Love It or List It when I am too tired to read.  I despair of the wonderful potential of the internet but we find ourselves on Facebook telling everyone we got gas after eating out or on YouTube watching someone make a fool of themselves -- again.

Christians must feel very much like a fish out of water in an age of gay marriage, cohabitation, the disdain of children, and the promotion of self-indulgence on nearly every level.  Christians must feel like a fish out of water when the media delights in playing upon every foible and failing of religious, political, and cultural leaders and they seem so apt to fall.  Christian must feel like a fish out of water when they find empty pews on Sunday morning and empty Sunday school classrooms, too.  We want progress -- make that success!  We want to become the religious Wal-Marts of the world and so many churches seem willing to sell their souls to anyone who will purchase them as they pursue their dream of popularity.

But Tolkien reminds us that only a fish out of water knows what he is missing.  It is a helpful thought.  We may feel out of place in our world but we Christians are not out of place.  God has placed us right where we are because we know what the world is missing in the hope that became flesh and the love incarnate in Jesus Christ.  God has put us in this time and in this place for the specific cause of His kingdom.  We do not need to see the outcome to know what it is -- Christ's victory is already a done deal from the cross and empty tomb and we are who live in Him share in His eternal victory by God's very promise and design.  The Church is not simply to be a refuge where we go to get away from the world running out of control away from God.  It is the place where we are strengthened for service and renewed for the work of the Kingdom that endures forever and will not go unnoticed by the eyes of God on the day when all are called to account.

We feel out of place only because we know more than what we see or experience around us.  We know God in Christ by the power of the Spirit.  We know that heaven and earth may pass away but the Word of the Lord endures forever.  We know that man does not live by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.  We know that the fear of the Lord (read that faith and trust) is the beginning of wisdom.  We know these things by grace through faith and this wondrous week recalling the Palm Sunday welcome, the Holy Thursday meal, the Good Friday suffering and death, and the Easter resurrection only reminds us that what we see is not all that is.  Faith sees with different eyes a reality even more real than what our physical eyes behold.  Do not lose heart.  Not for you.  Not for your family.  Not for your congregation and church.  If God is for us, who can be against us?  Surely not Christ who died for us and was raised for our justification.  He has all things and if we have Him (as He has promised), do we not have all things in Him?  No, we may feel like fish out of water but that is only because we know the living water that  bestows everlasting life.


Anonymous said...

Excellent! I could not agree more!

Fr. D+
Anglican Priest

Timothy Buelow said...

Thank you.