Religion in America

Yesterday the “news” reported what we in the line of church work already knew: Americans are more and more difficult to reach with the Gospel. It is very easy for those who care about and love the church and people to despair, including myself at times! (So please pray for me!)

There definitely is a poison in the air that is stirring up against “organized” religion. And certainly even members of our congregations, I know, although perhaps not being “antagonistic” toward the church, simply have no “use” for it anymore. They don’t see it as something that is elemental to their lives. Sure it is nice to go to church once in a while because it might make them somehow feel a bit better, but if it wasn’t there it certainly wouldn’t make a big impact on their lives.

This of course, is nothing new. The people of the Old Testament continually fell away from the Lord. The one time it got so bad that the people hadn’t read the Torah and the commandments for generations and they were actually lost. Then one day someone found the Torah in the back corner of the temple and brought them to the king (King Josiah, if I remember correctly) and he, reading them for the first time, was astounded! He gathered the whole kingdom together to read the Word of God and repent!

It truly is a pagan world out there, and I do despair over the fact that it is becoming more and more difficult to find anyone anymore (except here at Peace, of course!) who has any concept of “holiness”; anyone who knows the scripture; anyone with a fervent devotion to the Lord. And our young people? If they knew how to dance to the tune of God’s Grace half as well as they dance and prance about the sports arenas and malls, I would be happy! The fact is that everyone is so busy and/or burdened with the expectations and cares of the world, that they can’t even see past their nose, much less heaven and the riches of Christ. Our priorities are completely out of line and we will suffer for our unfaithfulness.  Lord have mercy on us!

Anyway, I am puzzled over one aspect of the study. It indicates that people are not especially enthralled with “organized” religion. If that is the case, I would think that churches should be full to overflowing! I haven’t heard of too many churches that are very organized! If they are looking for a disorganized church, they don’t have to look any further than Peace Lutheran with is fantastically disorganized pastor! “Hey, everyone! Just visit us on Sunday morning! Experience disorganization at its best!”

Long live disorganized churches!

Long live churches which proclaim Christ crucified for sinners!

Musings on Holiness in Current Events

I haven’t put anything up lately – not that anyone is holding their breath about it!  But here goes a few brief “musings” on the current events and how it relates to our Lenten theme of Holiness. 

SIX SHOT DEAD IN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY LECTURE HALL:  The first thing my wife said this morning as she read it was “I wonder how [my brother and sister in law] Harlan and Jenny are doing.”  Jennifer is a German professor at Valparasio University in Indiana.  A perfectly natural thing to say, reflecting the psychological reality that “closeness” to a situation makes its impact greater on our minds.  But what a silly thing, actually.  What difference should it make if it happens here in Scranton or across the nation or world? To our son or daughter, or someone elses?  It is a tragedy.  It is a violation of the Holy.  It should make us rend our clothing, cry a river of tears, understand with an ever more clear mind that we are in need of the Holy One in our lives, and finally cause us to repent of the wreckage of this, our lives. 

OBAMA RACKS UP THE VICTORIES:  The fairy tale that has been Obama continues and seems to be crescendoing to his annointing as the Democratic nomination for the presidency.  Certainly Obama seems to be a very capable individual, a potentially great leader, and, from what we can see, a person of good character.  I especially am attracted to his ability as a speaker, one who would seem to be skilled in the ancient art of “Rhetoric”.  In ages past, one’s ability to communicate well was so very highly respected, in contrast with today’s utter failure to appreciate a well crafted vocabulary and verbal skills.  (Although his skills do challenge me to pay more attention to my own sermons, they also make me rather jealous at times!)  But I did read a commentary this morning on what many observers are more and more concerned about:  the way in which Obama speaks, it is becoming more and more “creepy”, filled with flowery jargon and a self aggrandization that is lending itself to something of a messianic complex.  He is somehow with wonderful speeches and a magic wand going to “heal the nation” and the world!  Wow!  Now, every election brings something of this.  But with Obama it seems to be going a bit far – as we haven’t even gotten out of the primaries yet!!!  It actually reminds me of one of my recent Advent sermons when we were considering one of the Messianic passages of Isaiah.  In it we have what scholars think was actually the “coronation hymn” of the new kings that were ascending the throne of Israel.  They all took their throne promising righteousness and justice and peace in the land…  But of course, the promises never came true.  King after king, until one day, the Babylonians came and took the king away…  All of a sudden there was no earthly king to put their hope in.  It became clear that we needed something more than an earthly king.  We need the Holy One, the one who eventually came preaching repentance and “The Kingdom of God”!  Just remember:  put your hope not in man or in princes (as the psalmist says), but in your God!  And pray for Obama.  I pray that his “success” would not corrupt his heart.  How come I am not very hopeful about this?  How does the saying go?:  “Power corrupts, absolutely.” 

MOUNT ARIE IN DANGER OF BANKRUPTCY:  Where there is money (and so much of it), how can there not be corruption and mobs and so many evil things!  FLEE from it all!  Flee to the refuge of the Holy One! “Jesus Christ is our Righteousness and Holiness”!  

FINAL THOUGHT:   If you despair at the world.  If you point the finger at everyone else and see their sin so plainly.  STOP!  Look at yourself first.  Look at your heart.  Is there any goodness there?  We often cannot do anything about what anyone else does.  But what we CAN do is flee to Holiness ourselves.  By the power of God’s Holy Spirit, who began a good work in us so long ago in our Baptism, let God bring it to completion in OUR lives!  Let His Kingdom come to us as we pray it!  Let us be the devoted Children of God in Christ Jesus!  Forgiven, Saved, Holy, Citizens of Heaven itself!  Heirs of eternal life!  God strengthen us to live under the Cross with joy and peace!