Friday, June 5, 2015

Right Thinking And The The Spirit Of The Age

Pentecost 2B 2015

Fr. Dale Matson

Our opening Collect for Sunday states, “O God, from whom all good proceeds: Grant that by your inspiration we may think those things that are right, and by your merciful guiding may do them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

If you are wondering why there seems to be such great confusion today about what is the right thing to do just look at our reading from Genesis. The serpent said to Eve, “for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

The problem was Adam and Eve already knew what was good. By disobeying God and obeying the serpent, they knew evil. The serpent did not say that they would be able to discern between good and evil or that they would choose to do good over evil. Evil clouded their minds and destroyed their relationship with God their creator. The further we are from God, the further we are from reality, sanity and the more confused our thinking is. In Romans chapter one, St. Paul states, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Verse 18). Further, Paul states, “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also give approval to those who practice them.” (Verses 28-32).

In our Gospel lesson Sunday this confusion about good and evil was very evident when Jesus cast out demons. “The scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.’ And He called them to Him, and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come.’” (Mark 3:22-26).

Can you see how humans in their fallen state confuse good with evil? The prophet Isaiah stated, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20)

We live in times where the spirit of the age has taken hold and become dominant in our society and our western culture. The mass media and social media has hastened this decline. There is great pressure on us and the church to give up the fight, to acquiesce and approve of what is evil in the eyes of God. It is an upside down world where holding fast to that which is right is difficult.

Often we see the “spirit of the age”. Defined as the “Zeitgeist” which is a German word for the customs of the people during a certain time but that is more like what is fashionable.

What I am talking about is more of a Biblical understanding of the spirit of the age. To understand it more clearly, it is better to say the spirit of the ages for this spirit of disobedience was present with Adam and Eve at the fall of the human race. St. Paul states in our Epistle lesson today, “Just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with Scripture.” Our faith as Anglicans is based on the truth of Scripture. It is the written Word of God. We learn these words as children in Sunday school. “The B.I.B.L.E. yes that’s the book for me I stand on the Word and the Word alone, the B.I.B.L.E.”

The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church stated "I understand salvation as being about the healing of the whole creation. Your part and my part in that is about holy living," she offered. "As Christians we understand [salvation] as relationship with God in Jesus, but that does not mean that we're expected to judge other people's own commitments." (Agape Press, Nov 2, 2006).

When we are discerning and challenge her inference that there can be salvation apart from Jesus Christ, we are called “Judgmental”. We are not being judgmental, we are being discerning and loving. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)

There are other elements to the spirit of the ages, not just disobedience. The spirit of the ages is not spiritual but materialistic. That is why Nicodemus was confused when Jesus said that he must be born again. Nicodemus stated, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” No Nicodemus, being born again is a spiritual birth not a physical birth. People confuse the kingdom of this world for the Kingdom of God. There is a bumper sticker that reminds me of this. “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Really, I believe that he who dies with the most toys is the biggest loser. He is the one who can’t pass through the eye of a needle.

Another element in the spirit of the ages is individualism. There are positive aspects to individualism like someone who does not conform to the pressures of society like Rosa Parks. She refused to go to the back of the bus just because she was black. Individualism in its worst form however is narcissism. Narcissists are people that believe the rest of the world is there to make them happy and to adore them. I think we have helped this along with the self-esteem school program called “I am special”. As Christians we are individuals but members of the body of Christ, the church. We all have spiritual gifts unique to each of us intended for service to other members of the body. Individualism may be one of the most dangerous elements in the spirit of the ages because folks believe that being an individual means they have a right to do whatever they please. Once again, the church is pointed at as discriminating and bigoted because we don't condone behaviors legally engaged in by consenting adults. For example, just because Marijuana is legal does not mean that it is not harmful. As the electronic highway signs state, “Buzzed driving is drunk driving.”

Another element in the spirit of the ages is the loss of Truth. Satan is the author of lies, Pontius Pilate said, “What is truth?” when Jesus said, I have come into the world to testify to the truth. Modern church leaders say that Christ is “our truth” but will not go so far as to say He is the truth for fear of offending others. What does this do for the main mission of the church? We are called to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ to the whole world. We are not told to avoid offending others with this message.

Another element in the spirit of the ages is an uncoupling of God from our nation. Leaders say today that we are not a Christian nation but look at the lyrics of some of our national songs. The last verse in “My Country Tis Of Thee” states, “Our father's God to, Thee, Author of liberty, To Thee we sing. Long may our land be bright with freedom's holy light; Protect us by Thy might, Great God, our King!”

At sporting events we only sing the first verse of The Star Spangled Banner which became our National Anthem. This is the final verse of our national anthem. “O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand, between their lov'd homes and the war's desolation; Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause is just, and this be our motto: "In God is our trust “And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

In the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” we hear this in the final verse, “In the beauty of the lilies, Christ was born across the Sea, With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me; As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free, While God is marching on.”

The only true freedom is freedom under God. Apart from God we are slaves to sin, and Satan. Today it is fashionable for citizens to walk all over our flag that represents our county. You can see it done on YouTube. When I was in 6th grade, it was my job to hoist the flag at the beginning of the school day and bring it down at the end of the school day. We would fold it carefully into a triangle. The triangle represented the tricornered hats of the colonial soldiers who fought for our country's independence. We would then give the flag to our school principal. If it accidently touched the ground it was supposed to be burned. There was a reverence and respect for the flag that symbolized our country.

The final element in the spirit of the ages is militant feminism born in the disobedience of Eve. Feminists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton are listed in Holy Women/Holy Men in the Episcopal Church. She was not only a feminist that wrote a Bible for women, she did not believe in the bible and was an atheist.

This spirit of the ages is composed of many elements including a denial of truth, disobedience, narcissism, materialism and individualism and the uncoupling of God from our nation. The author of the spirit of the ages is Satan who is the ruler of this world and this age. As a church our marching orders remain the same against the spirit of this age. Preach the Good News of Jesus Christ. Lord, with Your inspiration, may we think and do what is right. May we help others come into the light of Your Truth. “Onward Christian Soldiers.” Amen

1 comment:

underground pewster said...

1) "Modern church leaders say that Christ is 'our truth' but will not go so far as to say He is the truth for fear of offending others." IMHO, they don't go that far because they don't really believe it in their hearts.

2) "What does this do for the main mission of the church?"
It kills it.