Thursday, May 9, 2019

Fear of growing old. . .

“Let us ask the Lord to free the Church from those who would make her grow old, encase her in the past, hold her back or keep her at a standstill.”  So says the Pope named Francis (Frank?).  It is his conviction that the Church must be made ever new and fresh, lest she reach an expiration date and be cast aside as old news.  So sad it is that the Church must be subject to the same pressures of folks who visit the plastic surgeons and follow the changing dictates of current fashion and color their hair to hide the grey.  Nobody likes old people anymore.  Listen to the children, pay attention to youth, and emulate them at every chance.

There are many who would applaud Francis and who believe that this is the calling of the faithful today -- to rescue the Church from tradition, from the voices of the past, from the saints who have gone before, and from being your grandfather's Church.  Even Lutherans hear this mantra.  Times change, people change, the world changes and so must the Church.  The worst sin of all is to admit that we have never done that before.  Or so it would seem.  In our culture that adores youth and works to hide or mask age and esteem, we want our children to be adults and as adults we want to be  children.  The hoary head is fixed with a box of colorant.

In reality, it is a good thing that the Church hears the voice of those who went before, is slow to change, is seeming aloof from change and chance, and speaks with a voice common to every time and place the unchanging message of salvation in Christ alone.  It is not because we fear youth or things new but because we are bound to a timeless truth, expressed through the ages, and delivered to us as a sacred deposit to be guarded as well as put to use in our own time.  The truth is that the present has not been sifted through time and review and so it is raw and untested.  The voices of today may indeed be relevant and urgent but without discernment and the esteem of the faithful over the ages, the voices speak merely of and to the moment.

It is surely a good thing that many things have come and gone, the things that were thought at the moment to be transforming and profound have proven to be lame and goofy.  Think of hymns and how time itself and the voices of the faithful over time have sifted through the body of hymnody to preserve the profound and to forget those unworthy of our voices.  It is not fool proof.  Some stuff is retained that does not deserve to endure but it is a good thing over all that we are not bound up in this particular moment in time and that we are not captive to the voices of this moment.

And there is another thing.  The Church was not established by Christ nor placed upon this earth by God to be a listening post.  The Church is God's voice speaking through the voices of preacher and teacher, parent and friend, clergy and lay the timeless truth of Christ crucified and risen.  The Church is not some fact finding mission from God to figured out what is going on in the hearts of the people now but place where God dwells in His Word and Sacraments and where the unchanging Gospel of the Christ yesterday, today, and forever the same bestows forgiveness, life, and salvation to those who will receive this gift by the power of the Holy Spirit.

As one who has been at too many Bible studies where the question went around the room what do YOU think it says or who has been to too many meetings where, absent the facts, we stare into each others faces while asking what do YOU think we ought to do, it is clear the Church does not lack for input from the faithful but too often lacks from the input of the Spirit and Word of God.  It is not because God is unwilling but because we are preoccupied with ourselves.  No, Pope Francis is very wrong here.  The Church does not need to be forever young by the judgment of relevance from and the input of youth.  The Church is forever young because she is the outpost of the timeless Gospel with the power to absolve the faithful from their sinful past and to bestow upon the faithful the gift of a future death cannot overcome.  This is what she speaks and this voice must be heard or sin will condemn and death will reign while God seeks to save and resurrect.

1 comment:

Rev. Paul T. McCain said...

"“Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father.”

— Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Chapter 4.

Rev. Paul T. McCain