Tuesday, March 29, 2005

254 Lip Service after Easter Services?

On Good Friday, Zach Wendling wrote about why he treasures the services held on that day--services that end in total darkness leaving one with a sense of horror at what has transpired on our behalf, Jesus death on the cross for our sins.

“Before Jesus could overcome sin and death by his glorious resurrection on Sunday, he had to endure that sin and death today. What we will celebrate in two (three?) days is predicated by what happened today, and so it behooves us to mark this day as different. To ignore Good Friday and skip straight to Easter may even have theologically troubling implications. Pride makes us want to ignore our sin and skip straight to the Gospel message of salvation and joy, and appropriately, Easter is a celebration of that salvation. Good Friday, on the other hand, is a stark reminder of why we need Christ, why he died, and how he died.” Zach Wendling In the Agora

In a nutshell, Wendling described why so many sermons with “bumper sticker gospel” fall flat, both for the saints and the ain‘ts. To me they are stuck either on Palm Sunday with happy, relationship themes, or they underscore the law in Paul’s writings with admonitions to go out and do more witnessing, more serving, more stewardship, more good examples, etc. They not only skip over the Resurrection, our hope, the rest of the church year, but ignore what happened on Good Friday.

“Pride makes us want to ignore our sin and skip straight to the Gospel message of salvation and joy.”

Here’s an example of the Gospel of Jesus Christ reworked to be inoffensive. Our church magazine for March has a reprinted interview with Quaker Richard J. Foster, the founder of Renovar√©. My first complaint is that his article on prayer is reprinted from The Plain Truth, the organ of a sect that I’m not ready yet to embrace given its founding by Herbert W. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God (which has split into many factions since Armstrong‘s death).

I know Foster is considered a wonderful writer, but in this interview the Gospel is just gibberish, an unbeliever would never figure it out and a believer would just be lulled to sleep with all that sweetness and joy. There is no Good Friday. No Easter. Only figuring out through trial and error how to get close to God in prayer--which sounds an awful lot like works to me. It’s not that tough in a two page article to insert a few words about sin and the cross so we have a foundation from which to start. Here’s the cheerleading, bumper sticker gospel to which I object:

“God will not come into certain corners of our lives until we open those corners to him.”

“It is the life relationship, the interaction with God, that changes us.”

“Prayer is one of the means God uses for purifying our motives [to pray?].”

[Through prayer, good, bad, whatever ?] the problems of sin begin to be dealt with in time.”

“A loving relationship with God . . .is a great adventure.”

The name of Jesus does not appear anywhere in the article. Even the Muslim clerk at Meijer’s says, “God bless you” after our chats.

The article did drive me to his website, which is better than this interview--actually mentions Jesus--but still bogs down in relationship chatter. Sort of the ecumenical version of, “do you have a personal relationship with Jesus” to the power of 10.


Jane_of_art said...

Are you Lutheran? For some reason, I think you are. Anyways...if you are you'll be glad to knwo in an article I read only the Lutheran Minister preached on Terri for Easter. I am Catholic and disgusted by the bishops. I am usually over @ Collecting My Thoughts, nice blog.

Norma said...

Although I'm not a fan of Jesse Jackson, he seems to one of the few pastors/priests speaking out for Terri.