Thursday, August 30, 2012

National Politics and the Parish Life

I get frustrated when I watch national politics - the self congratulations, the spin, the rhetoric of doom aimed at the other party.  It all seems so... silly to me.  I'm amused at how every plan to balance the budget would take decades... as though any family that was spending much more than it brought in would have decades to get that under control.

Balancing the budget is simple -- do not spend more than you bring in.  The problem, though, is this: if you try to buy off voters with perks and promises, you can't do that and be re-elected.

So, in reality, the discussion doesn't become whether or not we should spend money for X or how we ought to pay for it -- we instead just have one series of promises coming after another -- and recriminations and perhaps even out right lies.

What ought we learn from this in the Church?

Once you start making outlandish promises for anything, the truth suffers.  It has to, because you have to twist and warp things to cover the outlandish promise you have made... and you never stop to consider whether that promise was a good thing.

And there are many outlandish promises we can be tempted to make.  If you come to Church X, you'll get health and wealth... and people and their faith are crushed when health fails and wealth is fleeting, and so the theology has to get coaxed more and more and twisted further and further way.

If you come to Church Y, your family will be so much better... and, well, little Johnny is still no angel, and the stresses from work are still there on dad, except now there's that additional stress to cover this all up, to hide it so we fit in... and the theological deficit grows and grows.

There are other things that are promised -- increased Spiritual "Gifts", tongues and prophecy, healing, acceptance, tolerance, a more holy life -- the same things promised by every sect in history, the same false dreams that people ran after in the monasteries.

No - the Church is best when it is balanced and simple.

We preach the Law -- and that means you die.  You die when you hear it, you know you will die eventually, and you see the sin of your past for what it is, namely little tremors of death killing you, killing friendships, killing blessings.

We preach the Gospel -- for Christ has died for you.  And when you hear that, you have life.  You have life now in the middle of the world of sin and death, you have life knowing you are forgiven, you have life that is free and made to serve the neighbor, and you have everlasting life now -- its yours, even if you won't see it in full until the last day.

All the other junk -- it just distracts from these truths, these wonderful truths.  The Lord tears you down so that He may build you up, not into your sinful flesh's image of what you should be, but He makes you His workmanship for life now, for life eternal. 

We don't need to try to sweeten the deal, we don't need to make promises -- as though we somehow control what blessings God gives and what challenges he allows.  No, those all try to put us in control and widen the theological deficit... things are only right and true when we see that it really is God in control.

It is God whose Word and Spirit pierces me and shows me my sin.  It is the Son who has died for me, and the Spirit who has made me to believe this without any reason, strength, merit, or worth in me.  Even the good that I do, this is nothing but God working through me - the Vine bringing forth fruit in His branch.

When there is this focus on God, there is confidence - not in ourselves, but in Him.  Without this, there is just posturing and cajoling and lies and hurt and death -- for without Christ and Him Crucified, the Law still stands, even if we ignore it.

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