Thursday, December 12, 2019

The burden of comfort. . .

More than most things, the affliction the Church in the West has been forced to bear is prosperity.  We have, in the words of one seminary president, plenty of money but not many seminarians.  He is not speaking only of the seminary.  It is the affliction of much of Christianity in the West.  From parishes large to small, we find ourselves in much the same boat.  We are being killed by it.  Sure, we use some of it to salve our consciences by supporting those missions where the work is outpacing funds, where seminarians are too many for the teachers, and where Christians are growing faster than the parishes to support their lives of faith.  But much of it is spent on us.

Comfort is killing the Church.  We have great properties and fine buildings.  We heat them until they are comfy in winter and we cool them until we are refreshed in summer.  We have well appointed restrooms.  We have welcoming entryways.  We have abundant parking.  We light up our properties at night.  We have great and free wifi to fuel their smartphones and not use up their data plans.  We have free coffee as much as anyone can drink.  We equip our parish kitchens and fellowship halls to serve a hundred times more meals than we ever cook in them or serve in them.  We pad our pews and have easy chairs in the Narthex.  We play the music people want to hear, preach about topics they are interested in, and schedule the services (and meetings) for when it is convenient for them.  We teach people how to be comfortable with their sins instead of confessing them.  We are, if anything, very comfortable.  Though we say it is because we do not believe that people accustomed to these creature comforts would consider attending or joining a church without them, the real reason is that they make us feel better.  Why the last thing any Christian ought to be asked to do is to sacrifice something!  No sir.  Not in our church.

We are obsessed with our stuff.  People are always saying what we need.  It is usually not a matter of need but of want and much of the want is not to get what we do not have but to upgrade what we think is out of date.  My dad once said that hardly anyone replaces carpet because it has worn out.  They have simply grown tired of the color or the style.  He was right and not simply about carpet.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I am not suggesting that if we rid ourselves of all of this good stuff the problems of the Church would go away.  What I am saying, however, is that we have taught ourselves that just as the Church is comfortable, so is faith.  And that is a dangerous idea.  This in the face of a Savior who insist that foxes have holes and birds have nests but the Son of Man has none of these.  This in the face of marching orders which prohibit extra cash, coats, shoes, and the like.  This is the face of the promise that Christians will suffer as He has suffered from a world at odds not only with their Creator but with their Redeemer.  We have subtly taught our people that just as Church asks nothing of them but a few bucks in the plate, so faith is easy and rewards you with great things that make you happier, more at peace, richer, and healthier than you would have been if you did not believe.

We in the Church have become the helicopter parents to the children of God and instead of preparing our people to weather life's storms we have left them an impossible dream that can be realized only by being patently unfaithful to Jesus Christ and to the authentic Gospel.  Now I am sure that some folks will be offended by what I wrote.  I am.  But it is the hard truth.  Where are those who once proclaimed in no uncertain terms:
Gird yourselves and weep O priests! Wail O ministers of the altar. Come, spend the night in sackcloth… proclaim a fast. Blow the trumpet in Zion, sound the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all who dwell in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming. Yes, it is near, a day of darkness and of gloom.
 All of this written in the shadow of Christmas. . . boy am I a party pooper. . .

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