Thursday, March 10, 2016

Hard and easy. . .

There are always those who complain that the church has taken a relatively easy and simple faith and turned it into a complicated and difficult religion.  I cannot tell you how many times people have talked to me about the simple faith of Jesus as a way of complaining about all that catholic stuff and Lutheran stuff and liturgical stuff and religious stuff that messes up their simple, neat, little, compartmented idea of what it means to believe.

Others complain about the new law that dominates such a faith and turns the Gospel freedom into a whole mess of duties, obligations, and requirements that mitigate against the very thing that Jesus came to give.  It generally happens about Lent.  You know, the ashes, the extra services, the suggestion that more devotion could be good, the idea that almsgiving and good works are not such bad things, etc...  You have taken something easy and made it hard, taken something simple and made it needlessly complicated.

For what it is worth, probably not much, I am not sure that a Gospel of forgiveness full and free was ever claimed to be easy!  It certainly was not easy for or easy on Jesus!  We invent myriad ways to cheapen the Gospel and make the faith rational, reasonable, less onerous, and, well, easy.  Faith was never easy and it is never easy.  Christianity is definitely not for wimps.  Wimps go with the flow and it takes certain strength (Holy Spirit strength) to stand up and stand out as a Christian.

Freedom, as some tend to speak of it, is less -- sort of the modern idea of everything from tiny houses to modern furniture.  But less is not more and less does not make the challenge easier.  In fact freedom was not given to us so that we could pick and choose the things we like and ditch the things we don't.  This is not freedom.  This is mere self-indulgence -- and, I might add, the ultimate in pride and arrogance.  The fact that so much of what church and faith are about is not a rule demanded but a calling to which we are bidden shows us what true freedom is.

Freedom does not exist to make it easier on us -- the 2% tithe in offerings, the 47 minute Divine Servicette, the 4 minute sermonette, and two stanza maximum on hymns.  Nope, freedom exists to invite, to woo, to entice, and to encourage us to desire what is more.  We live in a time in which we have lost all self-respect.  We wear sleep clothing to Wal-Mart and spend our lives rudely on our phones while people sit across from us at table and we put ear buds in so that we can avoid hearing what we don't want to hear.  Are we better off for this?  Are we happier?  Are we more Christian?

Go to church not because you have to but because Christ is there waiting with His gifts.  Dress up for church not because you must but because it is a privileged place Christ has set for you at His table.  Open the hymnal and sing not because you like the song but because God has done all things well for your salvation and you have something to sing about.  Put ashes on your forehead not because you should but because it is a blessed gift that Christ wore our flesh and entered our death so that we might find hope hidden even in dust.  Take from the chalice not because it is better but because you trust the Lord to provide for your earthly well being even as you drink the foretaste of the feast to come.  Go to Sunday school and Bible study not because it is necessary but because the Word of the Lord is your delight, the voice of the Good Shepherd speaking to His sheep.  I could go on.  I won't.

Don't try to make faith easy.  It only makes it harder.  The riches of the liturgy, the sturdy hymns of old, the calendar of the church year, the ceremonies of old, the church's educational offerings of catechesis and Bible study, the offering plate, etc...  They make it easier because they daily offer us tangible intersections of belief and life.  Don't squander your freedom trying to run from things but spend it well in pursuit of the richest of treasures of spiritual life together around the means of grace and a life of witness lived toward neighbor and stranger and needy.  Go full on, the whole big bite.  Go for it.  Christianity is not for the timid or for those who want an accommodating faith and God.  The mystery of the faith manifest to us in the efficacious Word and effectual Sacraments is big stuff and the Holy Spirit will engage within us a big faith to confess and rejoice in it all... if only we let Him...

1 comment:

ErnestO said...

How much fun would it be to reply to the people requesting EASY - Mathew 16:23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”