Sunday, January 05, 2014

Coming out of the closet in the Year of our Lord 2014

Ecclesiastes 3:1-13
Ephesians 1:3-14
John 1:1-18

A question was recently posed: "How do we finally draw the line?"  Though the question was spoken by one person, it is a common frustration shared by many in the faith who feel pushed, put upon, marginalized, and even threatened for a conservative understanding of the Scriptures and the proper role of the Church in a modern society that demands the Church "keep up with the times".

We are told that love is "tolerant", but how tolerant is too tolerant to the point at which we feel we are expected to condone sin disguised as "social justice"?  How open-minded must we be before our minds, the minds of our children and grandchildren, and the minds of those who try to sway us become filled with Ezekiel's "dead bones"?  How far can we bend before we finally break? 

Most importantly, how do we responsibly and faithfully convey to the world that neglect of the soul is the easy path, the "wide and broad gate that leads to destruction" as our Lord Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount, while genuine and compassionate love of our neighbor's soul is the "narrow and [much more] difficult way which leads to life" (Matthew 6:13-14)?

We share, I think, a generalized understanding that the Church must never be reduced to little more than a "social club" of like-minded people who happen to "like" each other; that the Church as the Body of Christ in the world today has a God-given mission - one which must not be neglected - as the ultimate hospital for broken souls in need of some intensive care and rehabilitative therapy.  The potential of such therapy is that although the regimen may be long and arduous, the end will justify the very uncomfortable - and sometimes downright painful - means as we work to help others to spiritually recover from their broken lives.

Yet the position the Church has found herself in is one of extreme disadvantage, that of perpetual defensiveness; that is, we feel constantly compelled to RE-act to everything we deem offensive and have no energy left to attend to our PRO-active, Spirit-driven calling. 

We RE-act to any number of social media "stink bombs", but our protests are not taken seriously because no one hears from us until we get our "duck feathers" ruffled (yes, pun is intended).  No one knows of discipleship or the mission of the Church because our discipleship in mission is virtually non-existent.  Sadder still, few seem to care - but they seem to know whom to blame when things go wrong.

As it is written in Ecclesiastes, life itself is a series of seasons in which there is a "time for everything under the sun".  In the life of the faithful, it is always "time" to do something positive and constructive in and for the Body of Christ.  Though it may seem as though destruction has its own season such as a time to "break down", we must remember it is sometimes necessary to put away the "old" to make room for "new", to prune dead branches so new life may spring forth. 

So for the American Church it is the "season" of renewal and reinvigoration.  The forces of darkness and destruction have had their "15 minutes", and so it is time for the Church to COME OUT OF THE CLOSET and unapologetically make known who we are and Whose we are - but not by militancy or angry words or spiteful slogans that seek to demean those with whom we disagree!   

By these actions (which seem to have become our forte of RE-action), and by our neglect, by our complacency, by our spite, by our petty jealousies, by our selfishness, by our vindictive gossip and slander we have denied the reality of our Savior in denying our own salvation and why we have been redeemed in the first place!  We then wonder why people do not take us seriously or believe our witness - our witness has become a lie. 

None of us can escape this stinging indictment, and yet as the Church we must all face this indictment together - as Israel had to face its own indictment - with a sincere desire and an earnest resolve to live into the "redemption from all iniquity", as it is written; the "redemption" that belongs to the Church called forth in faith and in love, "destined [as we are] for adoption as children of the Living God through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His Will" (Ephesians 1:5)!

We must never deny our God-given destiny by a willingness to settle for less than what we have been created, redeemed, and called forth to be AND to do.  Far be it!  For the Lord promises His faithful (that is, those who follow Him and not themselves or some pop-culture icon): "I will gather [My people] ... and with consolation I will lead them back" (Jeremiah 31:8, 9); back to blessedness in the safety and the promise of the Eternal Covenant.

So there is much more we are faced with than merely "how" to draw the line.  There is also a "when" and a "where".  And the "when" is now.  The "where" is right here, and the "how" is first by our own complete repentance and total surrender to the "Word which became flesh and dwelt among us" rather than trying to make that Word subjective to us and our own purposes! 

Even though it may seem to be "people" who are a threat to us and to the Church, we must remember as St. Paul reminds the Ephesians: "We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities and rulers of the darkness of this age" (Ephesians 6:12); so "though we walk in the flesh, we [must] not war according to the flesh; for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but are mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)!

None of this will happen, however, until WE (that is, the Church) are completely captive to the "obedience of Christ".

It is time to stand up and be counted - but to be counted in the righteousness of Christ our Lord in the "whole armor of God" - not just the tiny pieces we select for ourselves - the WHOLE armor; most especially as He is revealed in the Written Word of the Holy Scriptures in the First Testament AND the New.  If we will take the time to be still, to stop and remember what we have been redeemed for and called to, life as we have come to know it will cease to exist - as the dawn of the Promise of the fullness of life is upon us by His Mercy and by His decree; but not until we give Him our "whole" life - personal AND corporate: "You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13)

Sometimes these are harsh words, I know, but they are always Words of Promise and Assurance - for nothing less than our immortal souls are at stake!  The territorial nature of the Church has become so acute that its being as "The Body of Christ" has been so completely surrendered that earnest seekers will never wander in without a direct invitation from a member of that church whom they know and trust.  A seeker will never seek a God whose followers do not earnestly seek Him.  A seeker will never offer himself or herself to a God whose own followers hold back a substantial portion of their own "hearts, souls, minds, and strengths" and gifts.  And this most certainly and perhaps especially includes our children and our grandchildren - for they learn from us FIRST. 

If we truly want this country to turn around, the Church must take the lead PRO-actively as if it truly is the "Year of our Lord" (AD).  Just as Jesus came to show us the Way to the Father, the Holy Spirit has empowered the Church from the beginning to show others the way to Jesus!  It is a duty and a privilege we dare not take lightly!  And no one - NO ONE - is too old or too busy or too ill-equipped or too infirm or too "saved" to offer their very best to the Lord our God through His Holy Church which is the Body of His Only Begotten Son.

It is His very best we have been given, and it is no less than the Very Best called forth from us.  Let us as the Body of Christ resolve not to waste energy in pointing out fault in others but together search for solutions within ourselves; for the promise of our Lord is sure and certain: "The Holy Spirit will teach you" (Luke 12:12). 

We, however, must be willing to be taught.  Or else 2014 will look exactly like 2013 - or perhaps worse as we continue to assimilate and degrade ourselves in this modern culture and drift further and further away from our Holy Father.  We must proclaim much more than the NAME of the Lord; we must embrace the entire LIFE of Messiah! 

For it is Messiah who beckons us and assures us; REPENT; for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand! 

In the name of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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