Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Living with a mess. . .

One of the common fruits of the Reformation is the acknowledgment that the Church was a mess, is a mess, but should not be a mess.  There were heady days at the beginning of the Reformation thinking that this was at last a chance to cleanse and restore the new car shine to the Church which had suffered much through the ages.  Whether in Wittenberg or Zurich or Rome, there was a heart felt desire to clean up the Church's errors, faults, failings, and failures.  Would that it could be so!  We have learned hard lessons since then.  One of those hard lessons is that the Reformers created their own set of problems and that Rome seems to be stuck reforming her own reforms.  A cynic might suggest that we are simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.  

I will agree the Church is a mess.  Evangelicalism seems to have turned religion into an amusing self-help exercise with a pop soundtrack.  Protestantism seems to have turned the faith into a piece of clay to be molded by every generation into their own golden calf of self-interest and self-awareness.  Rome seems to have developed a schizophrenia in which one personality is Novus and the other Vetus but it has to do with a great deal more than mere form of the liturgy.  Anglicanism has put the best ceremonial and vestments on the way you would put lipstick on a pig and call it beautiful.  Lutheranism has beaten the drum of all its sacred mottoes and slogans so long that most Lutherans are not even sure what they mean anymore (justification by grace, Law and Gospel, Word and Sacraments, means of grace, etc.).

Let me add my two cents worth.  I say give up cleaning up the mess.  It is not your Church but the Lord's.  It is not your mess but His.  Instead, concentrate your efforts on not adding to the mess or making it worse.  If you would do that, you would help the Lord mightily.  The Church does not need a savior; she has one already and far better than any of us would or could do.  Instead of trying to do Christ's work for Him or treating the Church as your own possession to do with as you please, why not do something novel -- why not concentrate on not adding anything to the mess.

The evangelical brand names have either imploded or abandoned the faith -- everyone from the Hillsong crowd to Saddleback has decided that the church needs to be remade in the image of man and the results are not pretty.  The Protestants have money but no people and certainly no kids so they keep putting the rainbow on everything and presuming this is God's work and the cross was but a footnote in history.  Pope Francis has succeeded in cementing the divisions that were once informal and being the most authoritarian man of the people anyone could ever imagine.  Anglicans have kept the pomp but they have forgotten what it stands for and blame the Africans for raining on their parade by paying any real attention to what Scripture says.  Lutherans seem to relish their Reformation history but most of them are embarrassed by how conservative and catholic it was and some of the others presume the Reformation began with a guy named Walther whom they really do not know well.

Things are bad but they would not have been so bad if everyone had decided not to make a worse mess of things.  Honestly, that is my only goal.  It ought to be the goal of every pastor and every person in the pew.  Go to church every Sunday.  Read the Scriptures.  Stop trying to figure God out and simply listen to His Word and believe it.  Pray.  Go to confession at least quarterly.  Volunteer to do at least one thing to help your congregation and do it faithfully.  Give generously and stop worrying about how your hard earned dollars are being spent.  Stop settling for finding a likely suspect to blame for the mess.  Stop using the mess as your excuse for not worshiping or giving or serving.  Love your Lord and your neighbor in His name.  Do it where you are at toward the people around you now.  At the end of the day, rest your sins upon Jesus and in the gift of a clear conscience sleep the night away knowing the Lord is on duty and His angels watch with Him.  Wake up in the morning to do it all over again.  It is really not rocket science.  It takes a willing spirit (under the Holy Spirit's guidance) and depends upon a forgiving God.  That's all.

1 comment:

Wurmbrand said...

It would be great if Lutheran pastors stopped referring positively to "the Protestant Reformation." There was no such thing. There was the era of the reformationS. In the Lutheran reformation, the catholic Church of the West was reformed according to Scripture and with preservation of 1500 years of good preaching, art, music, architecture, etc. Lutherans ought to regard the other reformations with dismay, because in them the Sacrament of the Altar was lost. The right doctrine of Holy Baptism was mostly lost as well. The world may never recover from the tragedy of the non-Lutheran reformations. Also, the Roman Catholic denomination came into being, defining itself against the biblical and Lutheran faith in important respects -- another thing to regard with dismay, for what happened then and for the trajectory that Rome has been on since, with the enhancement of its bizarre cult of the papacy, etc.

If I am wrong about the Protestants (but not Lutherans!) losing the Sacrament, I would very much like to be set right. Many years ago I sat at table next to the sainted Robert Preus and asked him about the Lord's Supper in non-Lutheran Protestant churches. His view, and I have encountered it elsewhere, is that they do not have it, since "This IS My Body... My Blood" in those churches does not mean "is," but "represents." Thus the Lord's Supper as practiced in the Church of the Nazarene or the Free Methodist church, to name two denominations from my pre-Lutheran days, may have value in itself, as a time for serious self-examination and as a time for increasing one's devotion to the Crucified. But it is not the Sacrament that Jesus instituted for imparting forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of faith through His veritable, venerable, and adorable Body and Blood. Wrapped around perhaps with false theology elsewhere, the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics retain the Sacrament. But the Calvinists, Zwinglians, Quakers, &c. lost it. There may be faithful Christians in these bodies who will never in their entire lives receive the Sacrament.

Is this not correct?

So let's please try hard to avoid any appearance of celebrating "Protestantism" on Reformation Sunday or any other time.

Dale Nelson