what am I to myself but a guide to my own self-destruction? I hate that quote. Well, actually, I love it, but in theory or when applied to others, and I hate it because it is my hidden truth that I work like a dog to keep others from finding out. What am I to myself but a guide to my own self-destruction? I have all the right words to excuse, justify, and even ennoble the dark,evil, and reprehensible cesspool of my desires. I exude the pride that too easily and deceptively lifts me up at the expense of others. I am truly adept at manipulating everything, including God's Word, to my own benefit. I am a very effective guide at the devil's smorgasbord of sinful thoughts, words, and deeds.
I do not come to worship because it is fun or cool or interesting or anything like that. I come because I have to be there. I cannot be left to my own devices. I cannot afford to absent myself from the stern and unrelenting gaze of the law. It is the cruel taskmaster that I cannot do without. For without the law, the cross would mean nothing to me and I might presume to get away with the lies I tell myself. It is the cruel honesty that every sinner requires but especially me.
I come to the Divine Service because there the Word speaks in its fullness -- the Law accusing and the Gospel rescuing the hopeless and helpless sinner I am under its unrelenting view. The Gospel is what I need and not deserve. The Law helps frame this perspective as I need, if not as I want. But it is the Gospel heard in my ears, felt in the splash of baptismal water, and tasted in the bread that is Christ's flesh and the cup of His blood. His flesh is given for the life of the world, yes, but it is given for me and my wretched life. I cannot imagine that God loved me so much that He would send Christ to stand in my place, to suffer for my sins, to die the death I earned, and to live to bestow upon me a life beyond my imagination.
There is little in the Divine Service that I do not need to hear but there are many things I wish I did not have to hear and more that I cannot believe I am hearing (and receiving). I honestly do not get the idea that church is supposed to entertain me or pique my interest. There is better entertainment a million places -- the stuff that transports you away from your reality, from your dull life, and invites you to live your desires through the myth of the big screen. I do not need interesting diversions. I have walls full of books and a huge stack of books I need to get around to reading. I have hundreds of cds to listen to (including the complete works of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, etc...). I love the opera. I have the internet. I do not need more things to interest me. I need a Savior. I need the means of grace to deliver me from my sins, from the temptation of the world, from the lies of the devil, from the dark desires of my own heart, and from the lies I am too good at telling myself.
What am I to myself but a guide to my own self-destruction. That about has it. I hardly need the devil. I can stumble into sin on my own, and have been doing a fine job of it for my whole life. What I need is the God who looks at me and all my sins and lies and still loves me. Not a God who lets me off the hook but a God who is honest with me and who teaches me to be honest about myself. And a God who does not leave me to my mess but takes me, washes me clean, teaches me the language of repentance and confession, imparts to me the Spirit so that my feeble heart trusts something other than myself, and feeds me the food of heaven. I am a guide to my own destruction. Thanks be to God that God has guided me to salvation, to the blessed truth that delivers to me the salvation it speaks, and to His Son who is my Lord and my Redeemer.
Augustine had checkered history. He knew a thing or two about sin, about the lies we tells ourselves, and about the empty pursuit of lost dreams. And of the God whose love refused to walk away. My soul has no rest but the rest that is Christ. Augustine learned that so long ago... I have not yet learned it but am still learning it. For this reason Sunday morning is not a choice for me, it is a necessity!