Sunday, February 25, 2024

Bored with the sublime. . .

It is Sunday morning.  All across America and throughout the homes of Christians there is a stirring to decide if today will be the day the folks will get up, wash up, and dress up to go to church.  Increasingly, the answer is probably not today.  It would seem that we are either not convinced that God will be present and delivering up His gifts in Word and Sacrament or we are bored with His gifts and would rather stay at home snoozing or on our screens.  Either case is sad and scary at the same time.

God never fails to be where His Word is read and preached.  We do fail.  We are becoming more and more comfortable with a faith that has little power to get us out of our comfort zones and into the place where the Gospel is read and preached and the Supper administered according to Christ's institution.  This is the most concerning thing to me -- even more than the watering down of the faith to a mere imagined good feeling.  I can get why it is hard to rise up from our slumber and our fetish for entertainment to go to a church which allows us to continue to sleep and confuses amusement with worship.  But what about congregations like mine where the Gospel is preached rightly and enthusiastically and where the Sacrament of the Lord's Body and Blood is celebrated every week at both services?  Every week heaven opens and the angels ascended and descend upon the ladder who is Christ to deliver a bit of heaven on earth in the Gospel preached and the Supper administered.  Apparently, the most that this can elicit from our people is a yawn.  We are so bored.

Ours is not the only such place where reverent worship is the norm and faithful teaching and preaching is usual.  Indeed, I would hope that is more routine among us than not.  Yet the reality is that not only are the numbers of our people growing smaller but the numbers of our people in worship every week is growing fewer by the year.  To tell the truth, the Church has contributed to her own demise in this regard.  Our people were listening when we admitted that liquor stores are more essential than the places where God's people gather around God's Word and Table every week.  They were listening when we said that watching the screen was the same as being there and when we suggested that they could and perhaps should stay home in their footie pajamas and cup of coffee to watch others worship.  You see, you do not have to actually despise the means of grace to empty the Church and strike a blow for Satan.  All you really need to do is agree that by and large what happens in worship is boring and non-essential.

You don't need to stir up conflict or make terrible coffee or be unfriendly to kill the Church.  All you need to do is meet God in the sublime place where He is and upon the holy ground of His presence in Word and Sacrament and then yawn it all away as nothing special.  The Battle of the Bible thought that doubt about God's Word was killing the Church.  It was but it was not the only thing killing her.  The confusing array of genders and sexual preferences thought that a lack of freedom was killing the Church.  It was but not at all the way they presumed.  The devil thought he was killing the Church and he was and is but not without our own cooperation.  In the end, the easiest way to kill the Church is to stop going or to go less and less frequently until it is never certain if and when you will ever go again.  The easiest way to kill the Church is to judge what God's presence is and is doing as nothing special.  The easiest way to kill the Church is to meet before the sublime of God's grace and mercy within the mystery of the means of grace and then ask if that is all there is.  For God's sake and your own, go to Church.

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