Thursday, January 1, 2015

A wandering Boomer was my father. . .

Had a few wandering Lutherans in Christmas services.  You know the kind.  They sold off the house and most of their possessions, invested it all in a huge RV so that they might drag along a small SUV and head out in an aimless journey to find America (or themselves) before they die.  They have no road map because they have no particular destination.  They use their GPS more to prevent going where they do not want to go than heading them where they want to be.  They sojourn here and there for a time with family and friends but spend much of their time on the road.  They aim loosely North for the summer and South for the winter but they mostly just go.  They have a place where their mail can be picked up and with cell phones do not need the ordinary signs and symbols of permanence.  They were raised and raised their children as Lutherans but they attend many different kinds of churches and have a broader perspective of both church and home that no longer revolves around an address.  They figure one day it may have all come to an end and sell the RV and end up near the family but they put off this end of life idea as long as possible (too long in some cases).

And this is the model of modern day spirituality.  We are in it for the journey -- not for the destination.  We are like those who have a wanderlust within and pack up their few essential treasures and head out for an experience rather than the baptized who have been set apart for a holy purpose and an outcome.  We have lost all sense of the outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls, and we see through the narrow lens of bucket lists, wants, desires, and experiences mostly for this life.  Even when we die, we prefer to celebrate our lives rather than commend the faithful departed to the future God promised them in their baptism. 

This is what we have done to a faith that for nearly all its history was forward focused and future oriented.  When I went to college eschatology was all the rage but no more.  The future is now (yes, when we die we will go to be with God) and we are focused on the here and now for as long as we can.  We have made our peace with death (a natural part of life), we have reconciled our lives to nature's cycle of birth, life, and death, and we honestly don't think about much more.  Joel Osteen has it about right for us -- our best life now and when death comes the blessed memories of all we said, thought, and did.  It ends up putting a great deal of pressure upon this life, upon the institutions of this life (marriage and family), upon the way we see work and play, and even the way we see and use our money.  We should not be surprised that we live our lives in a pressure cooker of impossible and unreachable expectations and we should not be shocked that our belief in the unfailing promises of our modern and technological world have swallowed up the whole idea of faith.

So it is also no wonder that those churches that insist upon speaking within the Biblical context of an outcome, an end, a goal, a destiny, and a culmination are or seem to be out of step with modern life.  The very timetable of church life in the liturgical year makes this crunch of conflicting times and calendars so much more obvious -- unless, of course, we simply repeat the cycle of the Church Year as if it were the endless repetition of nature's endless cycle of birth, life, and death.  The Church Year has an outcome, one hinted at, well, an obvious hint, as the final Sundays of the Church Year mark the outcome -- the return of Christ as King and Judge in His glory to bring to completion all that He began and promised.

I don't know if our lack of preaching in this area is to blame or simply a symptom of the lack of attention on the part of our culture and our people to the outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls.  Yet the Gospel itself is almost unintelligible and most certainly mostly irrelevant to our modern lives without this essential understanding that we were redeemed for an eternal purpose and destiny, that baptism places this promise upon us, and that our mortal lives are but the prelude to the everlasting and eternal future God has prepared for those who love Him.

Clearly, the battles we fight are not simply with a focus on the here and now but upon the nature of the faith itself -- the outcome or destiny which sin stole and God restored to us in Christ.  The recapture of this perspective is intimately connected with the ongoing struggle to reconnect our lives to the liturgical year and its perspective of time under the order and directed toward the goal God has prepared for those who love Him, whom He has redeemed in Christ and set apart for this narrow path that leads to everlasting life.  It is this message that the Church proclaims not simply to the bereaved who are left with only memories and sorrow and tears unless this hope is rekindled but also every week as we see our journey of faith ordered and shaped by the hope and expectation of new and glorious bodies prefigured in Christ's own resurrection and the new heavens and the near earth that are the specific and concrete future God has appointed for us through Christ's death and resurrection. 

1 comment:

LAJ said...

You are correct. We are so focused on getting through this life, being successful, etc. that we have lost sight of the goal. Thank you for connecting it to the church year also.