Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Christian Church in Context

Fr. Dale Matson
“For in the multitude of your saints you have surrounded us with a great cloud of witnesses that we might rejoice in their fellowship, and run with endurance the race that is set before us; and together with them, receive the crown of glory that never fades away. Therefore, we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, who forever sing this hymn to proclaim the glory of your name:” (Preface for All Saints, BCP, Holy Eucharist II.)

There is a view today among many contemporary church leaders that the church and its members are a product of the culture in which they are embedded. They are captives of context. Reality begins and ends with and on this earth. This view also shapes the churches response to this same culture. The response must be culturally relevant and welcoming. Come one come all. You may come as you are and stay that way. The message must be appealing and responsive to social needs. It must be sensitive, inclusive and affirming. It must adjust to social change and address environmental concerns. It is not a response to the command of God as much as human need. It is about the here and now of the material world. It is response driven by guilt and fear rather than love. It is serving others but not serving Christ in others. This church is devoid of sin, denies guilt, the need for atonement, salvation, faith, a God in Heaven, a divine and resurrected Savior and a Hell for those who chose to reject Him. There are no mysteries and miracles because there is no Spirit. All of the words are still used but mean what the relativists want them to mean. The meaning of words is based on convenience not truth. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has been replaced by many gospels for there are many ways. The gates of Hell will prevail against it for it is in fact not a Christian church. It is only a Potemkin village masquerading as a Christian church.

The Christian church and her members were intended to live in the world but were ultimately not citizens of it. If we mean by cultural relevance that the church takes on the values of society to obtain what is called today “street credibility” then it is nothing more than an adjunct social welfare agency. On the national level it is termed a “Religious Initiative” or “Faith Based Partnership”. This church is an auxiliary agency of the government. On the international level this involvement is for some, the “Millennium Development Goals” set by the United Nations. It is society setting the goals of the church and why not, humans cannot escape their culture because they are culture bound.

The Christian Church and its parishioners however exist in a much larger context. It is not just local, national and international. We are also a part of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is eternal not temporal. It is universal in time and space and it is about the saving of souls and the worship of God. The context is without boundaries. Our community of faith has provided context for us through Scripture and Tradition. We are called by Christ and led by the Holy Spirit. Although we live out our life on this earth in a particular place for a finite period, we see ourselves embedded in the Kingdom of God that existed before the world was created and was brought to us here on earth by Jesus Christ in whom we also live and move and have our being. (Acts: 17:28).

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