Sunday, November 5, 2023

A religion of wonder. . .

The religion of rights and responsibilities and duties has stripped the heart out of Christianity and turned it into some unrecognizable from the religion of Scripture.  We live in a world in which happiness and contentment have to await the achievement of a just and equitable world.  In this world we spend most of our time rooting out the hypocrites and tainted heroes of the past as if this will somehow make a difference in our lives.  What a joke it is that we think the world is made a better place by chiseling off the names of yesterdays nobility from the buildings erected in their memory in favor of modern day saints!  Wow.  Are we arrogant!

But that is the point, isn't it?  Arrogance refuses most of all to sit in awe and wonder of anything.  We have traded in our sense of wonder at the mystery of life and the world around us and bought instead the idea that that everything must be justified before the standard of equity, justice, and diversity that we hold sacred in this moment.  What kind of world can sit before the wonder of nature and insist that the only thing that matters is climate change?  What kind of world can site before the wonder of life and then flush the child out of the womb or treat the child as if it were an exception rather than then norm?  What kind of world no longer sits in wonder to listen to the stories of age and instead dismisses the aged as a burden not to be tolerated or paid for?  But that is the hard world in which we live.  We have no more wonder and instead have made ourselves judges of all that is right and true.

We are the most arrogant of the ages, insisting upon defining God and projecting upon His image the reality of ourselves instead of humbly discerning what it means for us to be made in His image.  We are the proud and haughty to get to define truth instead of being defined by truth that is yesterday and today and tomorrow the same.  We are the fools who claim our wisdom is higher than any other wisdom and in the same fell swoop dismiss God and our ancestors without the least hesitation or anxiety.  We are the people so full of ourselves that we waste our time before God complaining about Him instead of listening or learning anything from Him.  And it all began with a dismissal of the sense of wonder that accompanied once our view of His creation and our place within that creation.  Even the cross is no longer a mystery but mere symbol of something we have made ordinary and palatable for our time.  

There was a meme a while ago that showed a priest at the altar weeping before the cross and holding in his unworthy hands the very body of Christ while angels marveled.  This must be the most incongruous image of the day.  We might tear up at the cute usually pet related video at the end of the news story but we have no tears of wonder to shed before the wonder of God -- much less to bow the knee in adoration of Him who has become our Savior unto death on a cross for us unworthy sinners.  The adolescent hubris of our time has made religion sound irrelevant or out of sync with the times but we are the ones whose irreverence has revealed our irrelevance and who have elevated the moment to eternity while the day is fading.

Christianity is above all a religion of wonder.  We join the angels and shepherds before the God who was born of a Virgin in a stable and laid in a manger.  We join the faithful who watch as the sick are healed, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the blind see, the hungry are fed, and the God of the ages eats and drinks with sinners.  We come before the Lord not hiding our unworthiness but confessing it before one another and the whole world because we know it is His character always to have mercy upon those who deserve nothing of His kindness.  We come to the Lord not where we think He ought to be but where His Word and promised dwell -- in the means of grace.  The sermon is judged not by its practical relevance but by the faithfulness of the preacher to proclaim the mystery of God who has become our Savior.   The liturgy is judged not by the crass criteria of a count or a dollar sign but by its faithfulness -- ordered and defined by God to accomplish His own purpose in sending forth that Word.  Strip the wonder from Christianity and you no longer have Christianity -- you have only philosophical propositions requiring your intellectual agreement or behavioral standards that require your observance.  These are mean and rude in comparison to the God who meets us on our ground, is enfleshed by the Spirit in the Virgin, and who comes to us not in idea or imagination but in water, bread, and wine.  Let us do ourselves and the world a favor by rediscovering the wonder that is at the heart of every true and active and living faith.  Wonder meets God in the shape of order -- marriage, family, neighborhood, and community.  Wonder meets God in the shape of desire -- not for me but for Him and for a life ordered by and fulfilled in Christ alone.  Wonder meets the Lord where He may be found and not upon the level ground of our desire alone.

1 comment:

Wurmbrand said...

Unfortunately the sense of wonder may be hushed or obliterated by practices that bring ordinary-mindedness to the Divine Service. One could list many, whether chatter in the pews that goes on even after the bell has been rung, or pastors taking too much time in the pulpit to tell overly long stories of ordinary daily life and give references to sports and movies, or banal contemporary music, cute children's sermons, or ....

It's kind of funny that Lutheran pastors will relate bland anecdotes or similar allusions about everyday experience but never, never allude to, say, experiences of apparent angelic intervention. Why is this so?