Monday, September 10, 2012
Henry, St. James, and...
I was born again again last October 2011 during a week with Eugene and covenant brothers in Montana.
Agreeing with the saint who said "a life lived for Jesus speaks louder than any verbal testimony," several convictions related to the rebirth demand enfleshment and have become a constant prayer since then as I wanna look up, stand up, speak up, and act up for Him, as Calvinists used to say, to show the signs of my salvation (i.e., to prove I'm really related to Him more than less):
1. John 17 - There is nothing more ugly and dishonest to true discipleship than pastors/people who love Jesus by separating themselves from other pastors/people who love Jesus over anything apart from blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Even in contexts of blasphemy, we are called to be the good leaven and call people from sin through confession and repentance for redemption. While there is a place for monasticism, that is a particular call for some but not most. Get out your copy of Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship. Simply, the rest of us are to put on the armor, pray/labor to be oaks of righteousness, and wage war against the enemy and not retreat into navelgazing little cliques of smug self-righteousness. Besides, why leave one stinking denomination for another stinking denomination when you already know the stink of your own and can pray and labor to be a deodorant for Jesus? Oh, Oh, Oh, you twwwyyyed. Hey, pal, take a look at the cross and stop worshiping your navel! Don't you remember what Jesus commanded: "If anyone would come after Me, they must deny themselves, take up their cross, and, then, follow Me!"? C'mon, stop rationalizing your defections and divisions like...
2. John 3:19-21 - Unless it's a pastoral/personal/corporate confidentiality like counseling/leading a staff member or anybody else who's having an affair or dipping into the collection or watching porn on church computers or something from sin through confession and repentance for redemption, there are very, very, very few "secrets" or "around-the-corner-whispering-conversations" that are not intended to conceal sin. Most people who tell me not to talk about something want me to hide/accommodate sin. For the most part - and it's just common sense - if you can't say it publicly, it shouldn't be said. It's like meetings that excuse people so others can talk about 'em behind their backs! Evil! Evil! Evil! Jesus is quite clear about living in the light to distinguish righteousness from evil.
3. Matthew 6:24 - We gotta stop talk/action/non-action by claiming to be caught in the middle. Ain't no such thing for Christians. We're either for Him or against Him or trying/praying to figure out if we're for Him or against Him. God is not double-minded about righteousness; and if we really love Him, we obey Him. Period. Jesus said that. Being caught in the middle is the excuse of cowards, miscreants, and...infidels/wolves in sheep's clothing: "The way to spiritual power and favor with God is to be willing to put away the weak compromises and the tempting evils to which we are prone to cling. There is no Christian victory or blessing if we refuse to turn away from the things that God hates...Even if your wife loves it, turn away...Even if your husband loves it, turn away...Even if it is something that has come to be accepted by our whole generation, turn away...Every Christian holds the key to his or her own spiritual attainment...if he or she refuses to hate sin and evil and wrong, our churches might as well be turned into lodges or clubs" (Tozer).
4. Matthew 23 (especially Peterson's paraphrase/translation) - Shepherds don't follow sheep because shepherds are called to, uh, undershepherd after the pattern of Jesus the Good Shepherd as attested in Holy Scripture. Read Matthew 23 very closely and you'll start barfing about what's become of pastors like me. We're so ornamental, superficial, and traditional in substituting our posing religion about Jesus for an authentic relationship with Jesus as personified by Jesus Himself and prescribed in Holy Scripture. We need to spend less time reading books about the book and spend more time reading the book. Usually, books about the book don't try to explain the book as intended in its inspiration; but rather rationalize attempts to depart from the book to satisfy, again, our navelgazing, let's say fallen, instincts.
5. Joshua 1 and John 13:34-35 - If we don't get that, one wonders how the anything but heaven we ever got ordained or on a church roll.
There's a lot more that happened last October; but that's a preface to what follows and why I am more energized/enabled for life and ministry than ever before even including 5/8/77.
There's an increasing epidemic that's cross-denominational - the unchecked assault on clergy and churches (or using the Biblical metaphor, undershepherds of the Good Shepherd and sheep).
While no one is pure and perfect in every way and everyone needs Jesus to save 'em - except, of course, sarcastically, for those who assault clergy - we often forget discipline in the church is with an eye to redemption. In other words, we call all people to confession and repentance for redemption. We do not shoot our wounded; or, uh, at least, we're not supposed to... We're supposed to protect His undershepherds and sheep from those darkly influenced in a Romans 16:17-20 and Titus 3:10-11 kinda way.
Anyway, a denominational executive tantamount to a geographically located bishop recently wrote this to constituents/colleagues: "I don't know how things are where you are serving, but in the center of the country, it is a rocky season for pastors. We have had several pastors with decades of experience come to a precipitous end of a call...And for those who are still hanging on, it is a rough row to hoe."
Her diagnosis: "Why is it so rough out there? I think there are several contributing factors. Most Presbyterians did not grow up in the Presbyterian church...[I trust there are parallels in other franchises]...yet many of our churches continue to imagine that they do not really need to teach their new elders anything about Reformed Theology and the polity that arises from it. We continue to act like they should just know it and pastors get cross-ways with their sessions."
Continuing, "Second, with several of our congregations leaving us for other affiliations, it seems to have created an atmosphere where any authority that the presbytery might once have had is being diminished. We may go to a church and say our rules say 'this' and they reply with an attitude of 'make me.'"
O.K., but that's more of a testimony to the spinelessness of clergy/presbyteries/conferences/bishops/whatevers than the actual authority that can be exerted. Yeah, yeah, yeah, they may leave. So what? Is that any excuse for the butchering of...? Are our ethics that situational?
Continuing, "Third, and most importantly, I think we have reached the tipping point in many of our churches. The people who are in our sanctuaries on Sunday morning look around and see that there are fewer and older people. They remember all of the things that used to happen at church that have gone by the wayside. They know in their guts that they need to change, but they do not want to do so. Then the pastor gets up on Sunday morning and sits in session meetings and tells them that they need to change. Again, they don't want to. Instead of deciding that it is time to change themselves, they are deciding that the easiest way to stop having to think about change is to get rid of the person who is talking about change. So they fire their..."
Never underestimate the control needs of people who long for the way things never were or maybe were but are no more.
Never underestimate the control needs of people whose relationship with Jesus is coincidental at best.
Never underestimate the control needs of people who really don't care what Jesus or the Bible say if it collides with their fallen instincts.
Never underestimate the control needs of people who will bite, bruise, beat, and butcher if their control needs are frustrated.
Never underestimate the cowardice of too many in the face of such bold control needs.
Yes, there is more to it than the bishop said; but the bishop is pretty good at peeling the onion that ultimately exposes...evil at the core of all of this meanness, madness, and misery from the world that has now pounced upon clergy and poisoned churches.
Which gets me to Henry and St. James.
Henry is a church in my franchise (PCUSA) that my presbytery (local "governing" body of churches in a geographical area), so far, has failed to hold accountable for the emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and vocational rape of their most recent pastor by a very few seizing control over the vast majority.
St. James is a neighboring Roman Catholic Church in Belvidere, Illinois that has a real bishop who, so far, has failed to confront a very few making life miserable for the vast majority while dragging the priest's name through the mud of fallen instincts.
Here's the kicker.
In both cases, at the eye of the hurricane is only a handful of...
Help 'em, Jesus, because nobody else is!
In both cases, everyone knows who...
And in both cases, the priest and pastor are being hung out to...while the assaults continue unabated.
Way to go, brothers/sisters!
Talk about gutlessness.
The reputations of a priest and pastor - not to mention the scattering of the sheep - are being ruined and their prospects for the future diminished if not destroyed because neither "bishop" has the, uh, uh, uh, courage to esteem the undershepherds and call the miscreants to confession and repentance for redemption; or, uh, apart from confession and repentance, uh, excommunication/removal.
I'm trying to get an audience with St. James' bishop.
I will ask some tough questions of "us" at the next stated presbytery meeting.
I'd rather be crucified for commission than damned for omission.
Anybody remember Niemoller ("They came for the...and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a...Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up!')?
What's happening in Henry and at St. James is much bigger than a pastor and a priest.
It's an Ephesians 6:10ff. thing.
It's even bigger than that.
Our commissions and omissions related to brothers/sisters being butchered in/under/by any circumstance by anyone measure our relationship with Jesus.
Jesus said, "As you do it or don't do it for them, you do it or don't do it for Me!"
Ain't no middle ground.
No such thing as an "innocent bystander" in the Kingdom.
We is or we ain't with Jesus when it comes to our neighbors: "Do unto them as...As you do it...Love each other just as much as I have...").
Those are not just throwaway lines for some collect in a religious observance about Jesus.
Those are commands from Jesus to distinguish authentics from posers.
If we just stand by and let...
Are we that spineless...selfish...unfaithful?
It does not honor our Lord to allow anyone's reputation, vocation, livelihood, and so on to be tarnished, threatened, or terminated by identifiable miscreants and just...
I had a friend who called from Detroit many years ago.
He said, "A member of the church is saying things about me that are just not true. Everybody knows it. But no one will do anything about it. I feel like snakes are in my bed, in my head, in my..."
He committed suicide.
I will be damned if I don't at least...
If I was really reborn back in October 2011, I will...
Blessings and Love!