Saturday, April 29, 2017
The perfect trinity. . .
We want something that is perfect and yet we live within the tension that the Church is filled with sinners (baptized and forgiven sinners who have been given new life in Christ but are sinners, nonetheless). In addition the Church is served by sinners (pastors who are examined for life and learning and gifts before being ordained to serve but sinners still). We want the perfect Church but the pursuit of the perfect is itself its own problem. The perfect Church has little need of grace to forgive the people of God or of mercy to address their faults and failings. I wonder if God has not designed it all so that we never grow out of our need to approach the throne of grace on our knees! For He has placed the perfect means of grace into the hands of sinners to preach and administer to sinners who come with repentant hearts to believe, receive, and live its gifts in daily life.
The perfect trinity of catholic doctrine, faithful liturgy, and authentic diaconal service remains ever the pursuit of the faithful (both in pulpit and pew). But. . . here on earth we find it within the living tension of sinners whose belief is fragile, whose ears itch, who never tire of entertainment, and who live within the great temptation to find the neighbor in need a burden and problem for someone else to deal with.
I am under no illusions. I know my own frailties and my unworthiness stares me in the face every morning as I put on the clerical collar. As if that were not enough, my family knows my many weaknesses only too well and keeps me grounded like a salutary thorn in the flesh from God should. I know that my parish is filled with problems -- problems that I dream about solving but I know it is God's Church and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ alone will rescue my congregation from me and from itself. I know that my church body is fraught with troubles -- goodness knows that is what keeps a blog like mine going! And yet our confession ever calls us back to the faithful believing and the living out of our common life as the baptized people of God. I look over the fence and see the issues other churches are facing and know that there is no perfect place where the blessed unity of doctrine, liturgy, and service are woven perfectly together.
Now I am not suggesting that everyone simply stay where he or she is and live with the faults and problems. Some of them contradict basic doctrine and truth and violate Scripture and the faithful Christian must be called out from those places where the truth appears beyond rescue. But I am saying that in your pursuit of the perfect you may miss the good. Right now I believe my own parish and church body are in a good position. Some would challenge me on that. But if our confession is faithful we have a starting place to deal with practices that are not. If our leaders are committed to those confessions, then we have people who will guide us to reconcile our practices with that truth (as imperfectly and painfully slow as that will surely be). And if God gives us a spirit of charity, we will make the difference we can make in serving the neighbor and the world with the love of the Good Samaritan -- in service to the Gospel!
So hang in there. . . with me. . .