Monday, April 13, 2015
Loss of reverence -- cause or symptom. . .
Someone has done a study to show that the Boomers (my generation) were less likely to attend worship than their parents and their children even more less likely. It stands to reason that their children will be even more distant from the Lord's House on the Lord's Day. In other words, you cannot blame Vatican II and its after math both in Rome and outside of Rome for all our problems today. Of course, this is correct. The transformation of worship into a self-centered and a self-serving entity has sealed the deal but our souls were already restless and itchy for change.
We have lived too long to believe the tempting lie that if we all went back to page 15, to Thees and Thous, and to the good old hymns of long ago, everything would change. I have personally been in worship services where the liturgy was wonderful but the people were not. What we need is nothing less than a wholesale rediscovery of sin and its painful reality. Only when we know fully the consequence of sin and our garden rebellion will we awaken to the immensity of God's gift in the person of His Son to be our Savior. Jesus the life coach commands little in the form of respect or awe but Jesus the God-man who lives the holiness we cannot and dies wearing our guilt, well, that Jesus compels us to honor Him.
Repentance. That is the key. And before we hear and heed the call to repentance, we must be convinced that sin is real, that death is our enemy, that Satan roars about seeking to devour us, that evil is more than not getting what you want, and that none of us can contribute one bit to the big fix our sinful condition needs. It is an old fashioned word in a world where self-interest prevails but it is the word that dare not be far from our lips and its call far from our ears. It is what happens in the preparation for the Divine Service each Sunday, privately with the Pastor during the week, alone in our thoughts and prayers, and the uncomfortable awareness that grows with our study of God's Word. We are dead in trespasses and sin and cannot free ourselves. Mea culpa. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa. Beat the chest. Let out the sigh. Choke back the tears. This is the repentance that the Spirit bears as its fruit in our lives -- from this grows faith and hope and trust and from nothing else.
Yeah, contemporary worship that glories in technology and elevates our love of self to virtue is bad. It is real bad. But it is the bad we love to hear, the lies we love to tell, and the deception with which we are most comfortable. It has born terrible fruit in our lives and worship that is for me, of me, and about me is one of those poisoned fruits -- not the cause but the fruit of a life of self-awareness of everything but sin and its death. Loss of reverence is not merely caused by our worship troubles -- it bore this rotten fruit and taught us to love what is killing us.
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We are too comfortable. Comfortble in physical ways: Air conditioning/heating, pews (even the ones without padding!), comfortable clothes and shoes, comfortaable in styles of undress or overdress. We are comfortable with the immediacy technology brings. Instant answers, net it out, bottom line it for me. We'd never make it in a church council deciding on doctrine as they were in the early centuries of Christianity! We are comfortable in our culture. It is easier to accept the way things are, to be the dead fish floating down the current. Most of all, we are comfortable in our sin. Even Christians. I don't need to list the obvious ones, but have you read the Catechism lately, and Luther's explanations of the Commandments? We are comfortable Pharisees (myself a major one), straining gnats and swallowing camels.
When they say children of the Boomers, do they mean the actually physical children of the Boomers, or just people in that age range. Because lots of the folks in that age range are immigrants and immigrants are far less religious than indigenous Americans.
When I pray “and forgive us our trespasses”, are my sins forgiven even if I do not “Beat the chest. Let out the sigh. Choke back the tears”? Is forgiveness dependent on the degree of my contrition? How do I know if I am “truly sorry and sincerely repentant”?
“This is the repentance that the Spirit bears as its fruit in our lives”. St. Paul wrote in Gal. 5:22, “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things”. In 1 Corinthians 12 he wrote, “7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues”. In Romans 5 he wrote, “1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us”. But I cannot find a single passage that says repentance is a fruit of the Spirit. Obviously every aspect of our lives as children of God is a gift of the Spirit, but Scripture does not seem to ascribe to “repentance” the supreme importance claimed for it in this posting.
Do faith, hope and trust indeed grow from repentance and nothing else? In 78 years of being a Christian I have never heard of this teaching. If repentance is the only source of faith, hope and trust, then it is indeed a major doctrine of our faith and there must be numerous passages in Scripture to support it, but I cannot find a single one.
About Repentance, from C.F.W. Walther’s “Law and Gospel”:
In the eighth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when the preacher represents contrition alongside of faith as a cause of the forgiveness of sins.
One of the principal reasons why many at this point mingle Law and Gospel is that they fall to distinguish the daily repentance of Christians from the repentance which precedes faith. Daily repentance is described in Ps. 51. David calls it a sacrifice which he brings before God and with which God is pleased. He does not speak of repentance which precedes faith, but of that which follows it. The great majority of sincere Christians who have the pure doctrine have a keener experience of repentance after faith than of repentance prior to faith”.
Finally, a great Russian Orthodox theologian and pastor, Fr. Alexander Schmemann, wrote in his diary (12 October 1976), “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?”
That is one reason why I sign of:
Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart
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