Thursday, June 14, 2018

The future of the faith. . .

The future of the catholic and orthodox Christian faith certainly is shaped by those who preach and teach it.  But more than this, the future belongs to the faithful laity who hear the Word of God and keep it, whose fidelity, self-sacrifice, and commitment to the sacred deposit will insist upon nothing less than the truth from those who teach it and will pass on nothing less than this same truth to those who come after them.  These are those whose hope and love is manifest in the new life brought into the world and the faithful homes in which that precious gift is nurtured, directed, and protected.  We expect much from our leaders and we should but we must also recognize that the future belongs o those who by the Holy Spirit are determined to walk Christ’s “narrow way” with joy in the high and noble calling of their every day life as the children of God.

I must confess that for every foul and shocking thing that is perpetuated in the name of Christ by those entrusted with the sacred office of pastor and teacher of the faithful, I am encouraged by the faithful who sit in the pews every Sunday and give the Divine Service their full attention and devotion.  For every scandalous thing that is done by those entrusted with leadership in the Church, I am encouraged by the quiet and faithful work done by those who refuse to be led into temptation and darkness by those leaders.  For every failure of bishops, pastors, and the like to speak up and give unwavering testimony before the world to the unchanging Word of God, I am encouraged by those who refuse to be offended by Jesus and in their daily lives give honest witness to the hope within them.

Whether 20 or 200 on Sunday morning, the Church counts on these faithful and God works through them in profound ways to make sure that His voice will be heard and heeded in a world shouting so many other gospels.  The Church has never been guaranteed numbers to dominate but we have always been promised that the two or three who gather in the Lord's name are sufficient for the Lord to accomplish His purpose.  We admit that everything is His.  It is His Church and His ministry and we have been given the privilege of being admitted into partnership in this Gospel work not because the Lord needs us but because He wants to work in us, among us, and through us.  Nowhere is that more true than in the family, in husband who seeks to love his wife as Christ has loved the Church and given Himself up for her and the wife who seeks to love her husband with the respect and fidelity due such love.  It is a love reciprocated and multiplied in the children born husband and wife by the gracious gift and blessing of the Lord.  It is a love which becomes a sacred trust and noble work as children are brought up in the Lord and to know the Lord.

The truth is that a whole lot of moralizing has occupied our attention.  We are so very fixated upon what we think others should do that we have forgotten the morality of what we are given to do by the Lord's will.  Moralizing is the great temptation, of course, because it is so much easier to see the sin in others and to tell others what they ought to do or ought not to do.  But the morality that confesses our sin, seeks and believes in the forgiveness we have in Christ and, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, seeks to do better is the better cause than the bully pulpit.  This morality reveals its most profound character not in the great and pivotal questions of the day but in the course of ordinary life from within the common life of family together and the community of families.   I am not so sure our moralizing wins many arguments or makes a great difference for the sake of the world but I know that the morality of life counted sacred and family lived in love and responsibility offers the world a glimpse of something far too rare.

When I am about ready to throw up my hands in complaint, I remember the young families who sit on Sunday morning in the Divine Service, teaching their children the words of the liturgy, holding their hands together when we pray, and raising them up in the Church and in the faith.  Then I remember that the future of the Church and the faith lies with them.  Of course, it is the Lord's work and His power but it is manifested most profoundly not in the extraordinary moments of life but in the ordinary routines of home and church within the lives of the faithful.  It has always been this way -- even when we choose to forget it. . .

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