Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Being the Holy Fool. . .

For a good measure of Christian history, the church has struggled to become something she is not.  It would be laudable if the goal were holiness but instead the goal has too often been to become like the world around her.  The world has kingdoms; the church becomes a kingdom.  The world has kings and ruler; the church creates a monarchical office out of the bishop and calls him pope.  The world exercises dominion and power; the church rules by the same (threat, force, etc.).  The world values money; the church becomes a financial player.  The world seeks entrance to the halls of power and influence; the church seeks to be accepted at the table of nations and influence the affairs of the nations.  The world seats the power brokers in grand estates; the church houses her bishops in regal splendor.  I could go on.  I do not need to enumerate more.  You get the picture.

Now it would be easy to point the finger at Rome or the Patriarch and say this is not the problem of those who claim to be heirs of the Reformation.  It would also be a lie.  Whether you live in the permanent revival tents of the mega churches or the sprawling complexes of the mainline or you dominate the airwaves and kingdom of podcasts or simply post a video of your service, there is hidden in us the same not so secret desire to be a player and to be recognized by those around us as a people and a church to be reckoned with.  We judge success by the same barometers of business and industry, nation and empire -- the census and the revenue.  All the things the world insists are wise and important are the temptations of church -- yesterday, today, and the future.  Worse than temptation, these things will be our undoing.  The pursuit of worldly goals and values betrays the essential values of faithfulness and fidelity that are the hallmarks of the true church.  Like individuals, the church is tempted to sell her soul for a few hits on a web page, a few more social media followers, and bigger stats.

    This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

    I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

    Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things
.  1 Corinthians 4:1–13

What St. Paul says, we do not want.  We want respect and acceptance and we do not desire to become the sum of the world or the refuse of all things.  So the equal temptation for pastor and people, district and diocese, bishop and pope, congregation and parish -- whatever the name or identity, we fear becoming the holy fools of God's intent and we would trade our souls to become the people and players the world respects, hears, and obeys.  This is our desire and this is our downfall.   

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