Friday, February 29, 2008

feeling a little cynical

As I read about the church in various times of history I sense a great sense of import and of influence upon the lives of the worshipers. People lived and died by the Word of God. Every aspect of life revolved passionately around the Word of God. The history of the world has been impacted time and again by brave souls striving to follow God’s word to the fullest, to worship unceasingly. There have been martyrs in almost every age, including ours. But, there certainly are not many martyrs that I know of in our western society now. Not in late 20th and 21st century America. (There are probably some isolated incidences, and I don’t mean to slight those here.)

Nope, we seem to have all gone to sleep. No longer are we persecuted for our beliefs. You cannot call the barbs we get from the non-religious in our society persecution. No, by persecution, I mean people being burned at the stake; people ostracized by the government and society in a complete and total way; whole groups of people being fed to lions; genocide; etc. But, people in all times and places have had such strong faith that these kinds of threats did not deter them from meeting together as community to worship.

We don’t have threats like this, and thinking about what others have endured for the privilege of worshiping, we should be infinitely thankful for our current lack of threat. However, perhaps because of this lack of threat, we seem to have fallen asleep. Lot’s of people go to church, lead good lives, even spend a significant amount of time and energy within their Body of Christ communities, but still are lackluster. I’m sure there’s a church like that mentioned in Revelation – is it the one that God says that he will spit out of his mouth; the apathetic church? Is that what we’ve become? Is that why our worship is either lackluster or has devolved into mere entertainment? Or are our lives so apathetic and asleep because our worship has become lackluster or mere entertainment? Is that why Paul said we should rejoice in our sufferings? In all things (that’s ALL THINGS, folks) we are to be thankful to God. In some way persecuted Christians are so thankful in their persecution that they continue to risk their very lives to worship God.

Can there be found a group of Christians in America today that would behave like the example of the early church during the Diocletian persecution described by Simon Chan in Liturgical Theology? “There is an inner assurance in their simple assertion. Against the mightiest political power of the day, these Christians’ discovered a greater reality, the power of an unquenchable life, concretized in their worship on the Lord’s Day. Sunday then was not even a public holiday. But for the Christians it was the new point of departure to a new order of existence. So real was it that, like their predecessors in the first century, they felt the inner compulsion to ‘obey God rather than men.’(Acts 5:29)” (Chan, 43). How might our times of corporate worship look if we too “discovered… the power of an unquenchable life?”

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