My great friend Jim Gardner posted this on his blog a few days ago. Its very Bonhoefferesque. It reminds of the call of our Savior to follow him when he’s purposefully walking the path to Jerusalem and his horrible death. Deny yourself. Pick up your cross. Get in line behind me and follow me. It’s from a lecture given by Timothy Dolan, the recently appointed archbishop of New York.
“Maybe the greatest threat to the Church is not heresy, not dissent, not secularism, not even moral relativism, but this sanitized, feel-good, boutique, therapeutic spirituality that makes no demands, calls for no sacrifice, asks for no conversion, entails not battle against sin, but only soothes and affirms.” (“Church News,” Times-Dispatch, Richmond, VA, 2-25-09, A-10)
I wonder sometimes about the call of our Christ and whether or not that call is reflected by the practice in and of our churches. I worry sometimes that we’re not really calling our people to much more than showing up regularly for a spiritually-uplifting worship service, guaranteed to contain all the elements they enjoy in just the right order they expect.
Are we, like Christ and the Apostles, calling our people to grow? To change? To be continually converted? Are we calling our people to sacrifice? To give everything up for the sake of others? For the cross? Are we calling our people to faithfully eradicate sin? In our own lives? In our neighborhoods? To wipe out the sin in our churches?
Are we guilty of allowing a culture to develop in our churches in which, if things don’t go our way, we complain to the proper persons until we’re promised “I’ll look into that” or “Let me take care of that.”? Have we created, or at least fostered, a church culture that insists on our “rights,” within the congregational family and the broader community?
Our Lord calls us to die. To give away our lives for his sake. To be last.
Jesus bends over backward to make very clear he’s calling us OUT of our comfort zones, not to them.
I’m re-reading a great little work on the Lord’s Supper by Markus Barth, Rediscovering the Lord’s Supper. And right in the middle of this book he tackles this difficult call. Barth claims — my paraphrase — the Church of Christ ought to reflect the Christ of the Church.
“…Christ became weak, poor, despised, a scandal, and a foolishness to human reason, experience, and social standards, in order to come to those who are weak, poor, despised, who are considered scandalous or foolish, and who are treated as social outcasts. He came to them to be with them and to redeem them….As foolish, scandalous, and outcast as Christ is in relation to the world, so should Christ’s congregation be within the city.”
What changed? When and how did fitting in and looking good and being seen as successful in the eyes of the community become so important?
Wait. I’m on a new topic. Sorry.
The call to die. That’s the thought. Now, how do we do that as a church? Within our congregations and in our communities, how do we follow our Savior and die?