Having been raised in the 60s where everything seemed to be falling apart, I have a different perspective of today where everything just seems to be crazy. Are the problems we face spiritual, cultural, social ?Most would answer; yes. What are the answers? If I were to survey my news outlets the answer would be wear a mask!
Being invalid on Sunday I was able to survey some preaching, some of which was reflecting back on the Fourth of July. Of course, Jesus words about a house divided against itself not being able to stand were topics of preaching because Lincoln used them to devastating effect in the Civil War. If you can’t preach on the Founding, Lincoln is a good back up.This weeks preaching was heavy on law and what we all should do and as usual, short on the gospel, pointing us to what God has done. The words of both Jesus and Lincoln seem diminished and simpering when some see the biggest division between us as wearing a mask or not. Some of course took up Lincoln’s mantle and preached on race but of course the “law” again prevailed. Some talked about defunding or defending police. Some brave soul even got into the Jesus statue controversy.
Back at another time of division and insanity the church went through titanic debate as to what it should be. What is the church – a hospital or a gymnasium? A rescue boat or a cruise ship. Were we to take social action and march in the streets or do the hard work of praying for “leaders and those in authority” in our pews? One of my profs wrote this in 1965 -“Today’s difficulties may be social or cultural. “Integrate or disintegrate,” men say. Fight the blight of flight from the blight of the inner city. Help those whose faith falls short, or help those who never had a first chance to have faith. Which is it -trailer camps or high-rise apartments? Vacant pulpits filled with less adequately trained clergymen if we have insufficient numbers of fully trained clergymen. The church at work in shopping centers, in airports; cell groups for Bible study; special ministries to miners, lumberjacks, fishermen, dispersed Lutherans, the handicapped; midweek and day schools. Shall we have “social action” to prevent “social mishaps” that we are called upon to serve? The church faces decisions on mission fields, on spending programs, and on concerns that consume time and energy.” Over against this is the promise that God in Christ reconciled the world to himself. Looking at the carnage around us because of sin that is an astounding promise. To give voice to that grace in word and deed is the task of the church. Demonstrations may have their place, but what is most needed is to give utterance to the still-startling paradox of a holy God’s grace to an unholy world, and pray that grace be received and shared.