Sunday, June 14, 2020

What hath Caesar wrought?

What hath Caesar wrought?  The weeks and months of the great shut down are slowly coming to an end and more and more the openings allowed for things religious and secular.  Yet, the aftermath of Caesar's rule over our liturgical life has left much damage in its wake.

Our people have learned to view their neighbors with fear as if the person sitting down the pew from them is a threat to their health and well-being.  Our children have learned the lesson that the Fourth Commandment is more important than the First Commandment in most of our churches.  Our witness to the world is that we have absolute trust in science, in medicine, and in threat prediction software -- as much as in God and His Word.  Our clergy are divided with some offended that services continued and others offended that public services ended.  Our leaders have shown a remarkable reluctance to encourage ways to keep the doors open and most counseled shutting everything down.  Our next steps are as uncertain as first steps as we are as afraid of going back to the old normal as we are fearful of the new normal.

What shall we do?  In the face of this, some have taken personal offense and others have taken disagreement as sin and others have fought out our battles on social media.  It is a mess.  I am personally grieved over it all as are many whom I know.  But in the midst of this I preached at the funeral of one of my closest friends, a pastor newly retired, who died without benefit of the Sacrament for the months prior to his untimely passing. It grieves me that it has all come down to this.  Roman bishops who deferred to science and state more than Scripture and tradition.  Lutheran Presidents who echoed the CDC more than they preached the Gospel.  Evangelicals who decided that their worship did not require any personal presence.  Empty churches that testified to the fact that God and His Word had nothing to say to pandemics.  Kooks who acted as if nothing had changed and kept on keeping on to disastrous result.  It is a shame.  A friend whose wise counsel and challenge was met with a sacramental ban.  Hmmmmm.  We have surrendered more than I thought and we are still bleeding even as the doors are opening more and more.

Yes, I have been adamant that Caesar had not right to abridge our constitutional rights as Americans.  Yes, I have been insistent that there were options other than closing up shop and leaving our people to virtual sermons, devotions, and sacraments.  Yes, I have been disappointed that our leaders were unwilling to champion the creative ways to keep the doors open and acquiesced too quickly to the will and demand of politician and physician.  But it was not meant personally -- though I grant it could have been taken personally.  Get over it.  We have bigger fish to fry than to place a brother under the ban because he dared to disagree.  We have more urgent issues than personal offense.  I am not naming names but calling upon all parties to step back and take a breath.  Are we in the Church subject to the same thin skins that are normal for social media?  Is is always about me?

Caesar has won a great battle.  He has exposed the soft underbelly of Christendom and shown how we act when folks disagree with us.  This may be one of the lasting legacies of the great interdict of 2020 (as a friend has named it).  Long after the corona virus is over and gone, we will still remember how divided we were before the threat and how easy it was for our pride to be the downfall of our unity and confession.  What will we remember about corona virus 2020?  How about how easy it was to divide and conquer Christian pastors and theologians and bishops!  How about how quickly we were more concerned with personal offenses then we were public witness?  How about how we ended up believing with the government that we were pretty much non-essential groups doing non-essential activities.  And we played right into satan's hand.

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