Sunday, December 10, 2017

Because she endures. . .

I will admit to being fascinated by the foibles of leaders in history, especially the history of Christianity.  You know, The Tudors and its manipulation of the Church by Henry in pursuit of a male heir or The Borgias and its sordid portrayal of one of the most unworthy candidates to be called Pope.  But it was that way long before Christ was incarnate.  The patriarchs and kings of old were not the mighty men of God we often presume them to be.  They were sinners.  They were unworthy of the grace of God.  But don't stop there!  Luther was no saint.  Everyday Lutherans are happy we are not bound to his every ill-fated word.  He was a sinner just like the Pope he railed against.

History is full of people who had little to offer the Church except their faults and failings.  To some these are an embarrassment to Christianity.  Some inside the Church feel much like Gandhi who liked Jesus but not so much Christians.  We feel the constant need to apologize for the sins of those who have served as our leaders.  I am not saying we should laud them but can even the sins of our fallen leaders stop the Kingdom of God?  I wonder if it is not exactly the fact that the Church survives and even flourishes with such unworthy and undeserving leaders that is her very strength.

Is it not because the many unworthy, undeserving, flawed, failed, and worldly men who have served the Church have not destroyed her that proves she must be of God?  Recall the wisdom of wise, old Gamaliel.  Acts 5: 
But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up and ordered the men to be put outside for a short time. Then he said to them, ‘Fellow-Israelites, consider carefully what you propose to do to these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and disappeared. After him Judas the Galilean rose up at the time of the census and got people to follow him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!’ 
If it is of human origin it will fail but if it is of God you will not be able to overthrow them.  Ahhh.  Therein lies the miracle.  Men have tried to destroy the Church not from the outside but from within.  Men of not of noble character or faith but destructive and divisive individuals.  These were not the good who tried but failed in pursuit of godliness but those who played religion like a role and who lived the contradiction of their words and deeds.  The Church should have been dead a long time ago -- simply by virtue of those who led her poorly, whose sins were all too apparent, and who either believed too little in God or too much in themselves or both.  But she carries on.  The Church carries on.  In cultures deemed friendly or in cultures where faith was an enemy to be imprisoned, the Church has continued.  If we cannot laud the sacrificial and wise work of her leaders, then who can we credit for the cross being raised in age after age?  Except the Lord. 

The faith has been threatened by competing religions.  It has been coerced by those who attempted to use it as a tool for ungodly end.  It has been ridiculed in the halls of science.  It has been banned by oppressive regimes.  It has been outlawed by unjust laws.  It has been constrained by tempered freedoms.  It has been challenged by critics.  It has been betrayed by those who claim the faith.  And still she endures.  People have been predicting the end of the Church for generations and this is the the Way that refuses to be killed and refuses to die.  It is not for lack of trying but for the purpose and plan of God alone.

Despair if you will.  I do sometimes, perhaps too often.  But I am not the savior of the Church nor are you.  God does not depend upon you to do anything to prevent the faith from becoming a memory in a world without nostalgia.  God will keep her.  God will keep you.  The times will seem dark and the cause will seem hopeless but it has before and it will again until God dawns the eternal day.  So repent and then rejoice that the Church belongs to God and so do you and He has decreed from His throne on high that no one and nothing can destroy her nor wrest the kingdom from you.  She belongs to Him and will be preserved until the heavenly nuptials at the end of time and you will be kept holy and blameless through the blood of Christ.  The Kingdom His remaineth.


Carl Vehse said...

"The Borgias and its sordid portrayal of one of the most unworthy candidates to be called Pope."

Now that is an interesting phrase, which raises the question: From a Lutheran viewpoint, what does it take to be considered "unworthy" to be the Antichrist?

John Joseph Flanagan said...

Excellent points. Church leaders and even iconic figures of Christianity sometimes brought discredit and shame upon themselves and the body of Christ, but we know God is larger than we are, and His sovereignty remains unbroken. We should be well aware of our collective and individual sinfulness by noting the Biblical account of the past, a mirror to ourselves and a pattern for how we also conduct our lives. And that is why we needed Our Savior to redeem us, and that is why we must avoid being prideful in our outlook. We are sinners saved by grace, nothing more, nothing less.

Anonymous said...

Carl Vehse never disappoints; he is always consistent, even though wrong.


Carl Vehse said...

Carl Vehse never disappoints"

Obviously. But my question is certainly not wrong, since the current Antichrist has already been characterized, at least in a "continuing Anglican" viewpoint:
"new, modern, strange, and unintelligible"
"Jesuit marxist"
"Marxist communist"
"confused and deliberately out to destroy the faith"
"a wal[k]ing, talking, disaster for the Christian faith... no Christian... no catholic."

Anonymous said...

King Henry VIII could easily be one of those murderous, adulterous kings in a Game of Thrones episode, to be sure. "If you don't give me what I want, Pope, I will start my own Church."


Imagine if Luther were an adulterous murderer.

Anonymous said...

And now the Antichrist changes the Lord's Prayer. Doe he not know Greek? The English translation of the Lord's Prayer is accurate. Leave it alone, Bishop of Rome.

Anonymous said...

Carl, you are a learned man. You are simply being antagonist. You know Pastor Peter's is a solid, confessional Lutheran. You know Pastor Peter's is referring to how the Roman church selects candidates to be their head within their system. And in their erroneous system, if someone doesn't even know Greek or Latin or has even read God's Word and lives a life of scandal -they are "unworthy" to serve even in a heterodox Christian church.