Sunday, August 2, 2020
The threat to the soul. . .
Now Christians have learned that to fear their brothers and sisters in the faith. This is not simply sitting six feet away in the pews or wearing a mask but looking at those around you as a threat to your very existence. Some Christians have decided that this threat is so great they will stay away from the Lord's House as long as this feeling of being unsafe exists and until guarantees can be given that there is no possible threat to being together in the Lord's House. So great is the power of fear!
Christians have learned to be suspicious of touching other people or the things other people have touched. From offering plates to chalices to altar rails to hymnals, some Christians look askance at these things as threats to their well-being, contaminated by the touch of others. This, of course, among those who celebrate the healing touch of our Lord Jesus who was willing to bridge all sorts of cultural, medical, and economic gaps and was labeled for doing so.
No, the worst that COVID 19 has done to the Church and to Christians is not threaten their bodies but fill their souls with fear and suspicion that is a very threat to their faith and to the life of the Church. If faith was in danger of being too individualized and governed by personal preference and taste before all of this, it is certainly in greater danger now when the only people any of us fully trust is ourselves (and maybe a spouse). Even grandparents and aunts and uncles have been kept at distance because of this fear. It is no wonder then that we would stiffen up in the pew if someone sits too close to us and keep our mouths shut instead of singing and skip the chalice or even go without the Sacrament at all instead of risk catching something that can only harm the body but not the soul.
This is also the threat to us as a nation. Though some blame the political authorities and their leadership, the real cause is fear. We fear not having work and going back to work. We fear not having toilet paper and other necessities of this mortal life and those hoarding them. We fear what the medical authorities tell us and we fear they are not telling us everything. We have become a people governed by our fears and this fear has birthed an irrational anger in which every figure from our past is suspect, tainted, and abhorred. Voices are raised not for reform but for a rebirth of our nation that sets aside the very liberties for which we were born. People march not for so much for solutions to the problems we face but in anger over everything and everyone that has disappointed them. We have watched Memorial Day and the Fourth of July go by and with each patriotic holiday our national unity has fragmented even more. The best our leaders can do is blame others or make lame promises about how this would not have happened if they had been in charge. Well, they are. Trump is President and the combined years in office for people like Biden, Pelosi, Schumer, McConnell and others is a number bigger than the life of our republic. Few seem willing to sacrifice for the sake of another but many have placed unconditional demands upon their fellow citizens that pose even greater threats to our national unity. Social media is increasingly unsocial and the platforms have become beacons of our intolerance and contempt.
All of this is the fruit of fearing more the loss of body, health, and happiness over the soul and our eternal lives. Jesus hit us where we live with His words and He alone can offer healing and hope to our fearful and divided churches and nation. If we let Him. If we are willing to quiet our voices and listen to Him. He has the power to destroy soul and body in hell but He has not come to condemn the world but to save it by His blood. Where pride falls away and humility confesses sin, Jesus is there with absolution and a clear conscience. Where love of the moment gives way to the desire to live past death, Jesus is there to clothe us with immortality. Where honesty admits the flaws and failings of this mortal flesh, Jesus is there with the new birth to everlasting life. Where despair over the failed experiments to redeem ourselves admits defeat, Jesus is there to save us by His own innocent and sacrificial death. The Church is not primarily an agent of rescue for a broken today but the herald of a whole tomorrow. We do good not because we believe the day will come when we will no longer have the problem of poverty but because Jesus has saved us unworthy and undeserving sinners through the grace of His obedient life, life-giving death, and triumphant resurrection. Because He has given us eternity, we are no longer bound to live in fear of what threatens in the moment. He has set us free to love as He has loved us. There is no such thing as the social Gospel or an unsocial one. There is only the cross and empty tomb. Only this Gospel can give meaning to this life or it is at best an empty and temporary pursuit doomed to end in dust and death.
We have worried too much about the things that can kill the body. We have not rejoiced enough in Him who has saved us by His grace. We have not had the holy fear of faith to acknowledge Him who can destroy body and soul. And it shows. In the Church. In the neighborhood. In the nation.