Monday, May 17, 2021

Embarrassed by truth. . .

The truth is a burden.  Let's face it.  It is easier to have a bendable standard bearer for the faith than to rest upon a unchanging Word and a truth for yesterday, today, and tomorrow the same.  There is not a pastor alive who has not wiggled before the truth in the face of an angry or wounded parishioner for whom that truth hits like the hammer of the law.  And there is not a pastor alive who has not wiggled before the Gospel as if it were a principle and not an act of deliverance in which the Son of God suffered, died, and rose not for sport but for sinners.

I fear that we have all much to repent of but not a little of it has to do with the embarrassed way we treat the truth of God and the things of God.  Perhaps we presume our education and erudition places us above the simple Word of truth or being bound to it.  Whatever the reason, we as Christians are far too willing to accommodate the ways of the world around us that to swim against the current for the truth that endures forever.  It shows up in so many ways.

Our funeral practices provide ample evidence of our willingness to retain sentiment over truth.  We are replete with confidences of what mom or dad would have wanted and then we completely forget that mom or dad were in church every Sunday, knelt in confession of their sins, bowed their heads in prayer, opened their mouths to sing God's praise, and tasted the goodness of the Lord upon their lips.  So when we pick the music, a country western song replaces a hymn of faith and we are contented more by a feeling the music gives than by the message of the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting.  Sadly, the preacher often aids and abets this sentiment by treating our hope as the fruits of a good life well lived more than the life of our Savior planted in death and risen in hope of our own resurrection to everlasting life.

Our worship practices also give evidence of our embarrassment of the truth.  We are more concerned with germs and the ick factor in receiving the Lord's body and blood than we are the integrity of the rite and the piety that acknowledges this awesome mystery.  So we treat the Lord's body as if it were a cracker (each with our preferences) and the Lord's blood as if it were the wine we choose with a meal (each with our preferences, including red, white, alcoholic, and non-alcoholic).  Then we pass out the bread as if it were mere bread and pay little attention to the crumbs spread along the rail or the drips left in its wake.  And God forbid that we might put our lips where others have!  Afterwards, we toss out the little plastic cups as if they held nothing but the earthly element and pack it all away to do it again next week.

Our public confession before the world shows that we are so often more embarrassed by the truths of God than standing upon them.  We treat membership as if it were merely a name on a page instead of a presence in the pews.  We support the work of the Church with tip money for a sermon we judge good or give real money when it is a cause we like but do not dare the tithe or sacrificial offering.  We speak in whispered tones of the judgment the Bible speaks openly with regard to sin (any kind of sin but especially sexual) because it is controversial.  We let the world believe that the job of the Church is to care for the people the rest of the world does not wish to be bothered with -- because it seems too narrow to suggest that God is more concerned with eternal consequences than temporal ones.   

We (I speak here on behalf of all Christians) find the truth of God embarrassing and inconvenient and would prefer something that is less out of step with the times, the people, and the world.  It is no wonder that the Lord prays for us in the garden on His way to Calvary.  It is no wonder that He continually reminds us of the cost of discipleship and the burden of faithfulness.  We skip over those parts because we want a God who carries our baggage and is content with a little tip for taking care of us than a God who wants us, body, mind, and soul.  We treat the faith as if it were little more than a feel good moment for folks who want or need them.  Could this be why the world no longer watches us or is interested in us?  I imagine that the martyrs of another age left a greater impact upon their world by the fact that Christ was worth dying for than we do in our time for a Christ for whom we must apologize and rationalize away.

The truth is always a burden.  It is never easy.  But in that burden is real hope and comfort and a real promise for a real future.  The burden is not without its blessing.  But to those who are ashamed or embarrassed of Christ and the Gospel of the Cross, there won't be much to expect other than the same shame and embarrassment from the Lord.  Perhaps we ought to think about this as we remake the faith into a progressive social or political movement instead of the Church of Christ, formed from His blood, cleansed and made new so that death itself cannot overcome her.

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