Friday, April 24, 2015
Now that things have calmed down in the parish. . .
Many pastors and parishes bristle at the prospect of folks like that showing up after missing most of the rest of the year (spring through the dead of winter). Some pastors spend their time in pulpits castigating those who just showed up after a nine month hibernation. Sometimes the people who are there every Sunday sneak a smile or two when the pastor really gives it to those slackers. I probably used to be one of them.
Now, well, not so much. I have softened a bit (maybe quite a bit). I have become a secret optimist. I not only hope but expect that some of them will be caught up in the spirit of the day by the Holy Spirit speaking through the voice of the Word and they will find their way back to their place at His table weekly. It does not happen often but it happens enough to encourage my hope against hope.
A friend once told me that he prefers to call the unchurched (or dechurched) those not yet of the kingdom. I like that. I believe that I may not live to see it or ever know the fruits of the Word the Lord planted through my ministry but I am confident that the Word will not return to Him empty handed. And I have see it happen enough to be excited by the prospect that the good news of the Lord's death and resurrection may just, by the Spirit's design, hit home again.
So if you are in a slump because the pews were full at Easter and now seem rather empty, do not give up hope. The Lord is entirely unpredictable except that He always errs on the side of grace and hope. So join Him in hoping and praying for those who came back after a lot hiatus from the Lord's House. God has turned many dead bones into lively folks. We need to stop conveying a sense of skepticism and doubt to the Lord and believe that what we preach and teach will accomplish the Lord's purpose. He is faithful and He will do it.
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May our Lord move in their hearts to give them strong and active Faith!
My suspicion is that as the American church suffers more and more castigation/persecution, two things will happen. Well, maybe three: 1) Those who do go to services regularly but aren't really there in Faith will begin to drop out. 2) The seeker-sensitive and emerging churches who are so hip on style, but empty on doctrine will continue to grow and become more Apostate. 3) God will grant revived Faith to those who have let it wane to the point of coming to Divine Service only on Christmas and Easter.
I used to be one of those, too, who criticized the C&E's and those that came to Church so infrequently...or came late all the time in what appeared to be an effort to just go to coffee hour. But...I was taught a big lesson and proven shamefully wrong by a lovely old Greek yia-yia. Now I try not to judge anymore - it is not so easy, but I try.
From St. John Chrysostom's Pascal Homily: "If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast. If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in nowise be deprived thereof. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour."
Dixie, thanks for that quote! Law and Gospel in reference to Christ's parable. A stab at my black heart, too for not wanting to let the 11th hour people in to the feast!
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