Saturday, November 20, 2010

What fixes people and "Don't be a theological TSA agent"

What fixes people? What makes them better? What gives growth?

Is it the Law or the Gospel?

Now, I know, I know, people are going to complain - "Well, you have to have both!" Yes - I understand. Gospel without Law is ignored, Law without Gospel simply kills faith.

Which of these two, though, causes growth? Which brings forth life?

Is it the Law or the Gospel?
Is it the Moses or Jesus?
Is it the Letter or the Spirit?

When the Scriptures say, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" is this knowledge simply saying if they knew the Law of Moses they wouldn't be destroyed, or is it that they no longer know the covenant made to Abraham and its promises of life?

Yes, dropping the Law will lead to dropping the Gospel - but which gives life - which fixes people?

We are people of the Gospel - that is where our focus must be. In fact, above all things it is this idea that the Gospel, that Justification by Grace through faith - that being made right, that being fixed (for sanctification flows from Justification) is the working of the Gospel, this is the heart of Lutheranism, it is what drips from and is the heart of every page of our confessions.

Confession is retained not because of the wonderful examination of the Law it provides, but for the sake of the Absolution, for the sake of the Gospel.

The Church is not identified as the place where the Law is rightly proclaimed (although it is rightly proclaimed) but as where the Gospel is preached and the Sacraments rightly administered.

Luther says he would gladly submit again to the Pope if only the Pope would allow the preaching of, not the Law, but the Gospel.

And why? Because as Lutherans know, it is the Gospel that works, that brings growth, that changes people and makes them better, that is efficacious and gives life. "Be ye perfect" never made anyone perfect. For that, we must hear the Gospel, we must fix our eyes upon Jesus, the Author and... Perfector of our Faith.

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To give an analogy from a modern cue that hopefully will go away quickly.

I am going to fly to Wisconsin (God willing) next week. That is the goal - the prize, the joy - ah, to attend the wedding. To fly there, I must pass through security. I must be examined, poked, and prodded, humiliated, cast down and treated like meat.

Then, I will enter the plane, and there I will sit, I will rest, and I will be carried with all joy to my destination.

The Law is like the TSA screening - poking, prodding, making sure everything is just right. Some security is necessary, as some Law is necessary, but if you overdo it, all you do is make some people uncomfortable, give others a false sense of security, and generally waste everyone's time.

Now, a preacher should be like a pilot - providing the sweet Gospel which brings people Jesus and life everlasting. We hear the Gospel and we are given life - just as passengers sit on a plane and are brought to their destination.

DON'T BE A THEOLOGICAL TSA AGENT, mentally and verbally molesting your parishoners in order to keep them "safe" when what they really need is the Gospel.


Ted Badje said...

Well, I guess that was better than the tired Charlie Brown cartoon quips I hear in some sermons. I guess some pastors have a strong enough personality to pull off talking about a political issue admidst Law and Gospel.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I wouldn't use this example in a sermon - it takes too long to develop when spoken. Sermon illustrations probably shouldn't be longer than 3 or 4 sentences, otherwise there's too much complexity.

One that I end up using along the lines of the idea here (with my farmers) is, "If you want your wheat to grow, there needs to be water, and sun, and good soil. It doesn't do any good if you stand there and yell at the wheat and say, 'Grow! You must grow!'"