Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Thought for Wednesday 14 January 2015

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!  How often I wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”  Matthew 23:37 NKJV

There is a context to this passage that is appropriate to Jesus’ lamentation.  In the past The Lord sent prophets to the people of Judah and to the people of Israel to call them back into their proper role as people of the Covenant.  Yet the more the prophets preached, the further away the people moved, determined as they obviously were to have it their own way.

Fast-forward some 2000 years, and we can easily see Jesus making this same lamentation.  The Church was established to represent Christ in the world, and it started off wonderfully!  The Acts of the Apostles reports “thousands” who answered the call of the Holy Spirit, “thousands” who responded to the apostles, to their teachings, and to one another (Acts 2:40-47).  It was all surely as The Lord had intended.

Judging by Peter’s sermon on Pentecost, it cannot be said he “tickled their ears” with fanciful words or shallow doctrine, playing to the people by whatever means necessary just to get folks to show up.  Peter preached what he was directed to preach, and he told the people not what they wanted to hear but what they needed to be told.  And we can probably imagine that when the people listened to Peter, rather than cheer Peter for “telling it like it is” to straighten “them” out (whomever “them” is!), they praised The Lord for caring enough to send these apostles.  The Word was not always a “happy” word, but it was always the “truthful” Word that highlighted the difference between Life and death.

How did the Church go from attracting thousands to losing thousands?   There is plenty of blame to go around although church pastors usually bear the greater burden.  For good or bad, true or false, this is the reality.  However, the reading of the Acts of the Apostles indicates that the apostles themselves planted the seeds, but it was the people themselves who attracted these “thousands”.  Remember in that generation, though they did bring in help, there were still only twelve apostles whose sole task was to preach and plant.  It was the people of the newborn Church who responded faithfully and practiced “radical hospitality”, welcoming and encouraging all by giving completely of themselves to the task of the Church while the apostles saw to the task of the Holy Spirit and followed The Spirit wherever they would be led to plant new seeds and new churches.

St. Paul writes of the many spiritual gifts given for the sake of the Church, and it is this whole formula that gives life to the Church.  There are no “professional” vocations (though some are due their wages) indicating one is more responsible than the next, for the Church is made up of believers, disciples devoted to the task of emulating Jesus and conveying the Gospel in the world today, each uniquely equipped to see to the whole task of the Church.

Only when people stop excusing themselves from the duties and responsibilities of the Church will the Church ever find its footing again.  The Spirit (and the spirit) is willing (“what a wonderful idea! I sure hope it works!”), “but the flesh is weak”.  It is not a matter of finding A way to attract new people, but rather of getting back to THE Way of glorifying The Lord.  Then we will rediscover – or discover for the first time – who we really are and what we are called to do. 

Come soon, Holy Spirit!


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