Saturday, February 16, 2008
And so, this week, Loki is the character of choice for examination in our series looking at the master creations (Asgard and the New Gods) of the master artist - Jack Kirby.
Constantly messing with the denizens of Midgard (earth) just to irk his brother, Loki has been a bad guy for many the Marvel hero. He lacks the power of Thor but makes a worthy opponent by mastering both sorcery and cunning. It is the classic brains against brawn ploy, or at least it was in the early days, but Thor ain't the Hulk and he simply cannot play that dumb for that long.
Loki has also never feared making allies of Asgard's traditional enemies, the Storm giants, trolls, whoever can help him gain the throne. He also has a few allies among Asgard's less godly denizens - The Enchantress being one from traditional stories.
This is difficult for me to say, but this image on the right is Loki as drawn by Kirby, but as compared to the images above, I think this is one character others have done better.
I have only one question though. Look at the top most images, with those great horns protruding forward like that. How do you think he maintains his balance?
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Friday, February 15, 2008
Why The Clergy Must Earn My Trust
The job of clergy is one of great potential abuse. That abuse is both easier because of the veil of authority given the job, and far more devastating to the abuse victims because the wounds run far deeper than simply stolen money or coerced sex, or whatever. The church and faith are called into question by these sorts of things.
It saddens me deeply to say this, but the single most prominent lesson I have learned as an adult Christian in ministry in various forms from professionally to very small volunteer stuff is to make those who claim religious authority to earn my trust.
Even those who do so earn it have weak spots, but that just makes them human and against such things all normal people have defenses. But there are just too many stories like the one linked above to trust clergy a priori.
But at bottom, I do not fault the clergy themselves, even the abusive ones. I fault the churches and the systems that fail to hold them accountable, that fail to screen the bad actors out, that fail to properly examine applicants. I am a Presbyterian in part because we have a pretty good structure to provide for that kind of accountability. But, not unlike the recent problem in the Roman Catholic Church in America, we are increasingly seeing people failing to exercise that accountability, and the result is increasing scandal in our midst as well.
But absolutely worst of all is what these scandals do to God's name. Such scandal takes God's name in vain in ways that mere cursing never could.
When we fail to bring accountability to the people who create scandal in God's name, we besmirch God. We place our pride, our institutional well-being, our peace of mind, whatever motivation it is we have for not wanting to create a ruckus, ahead of the glory of God Almighty.
The mental gymnastics we go through in these situation to justify our inaction truly amazes me. We talk of grace, and changes of heart, all of which I believe and hold dear, but which in cases of scandal, must be proven and cannot be assumed. When we assume such things we simply reveal ourselves to be lazy servants of God.
What have you ignored or let slide in the clergy around you? You might want to think about doing something about it.
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Gabby was responsible for the food supplies, Mike would be the cook this trip, Johnnie was responsible for their maps and making up a time schedule, Tim was to decide on their events, and to fit them into Johnnie's schedule and Sally would test all their equipment before setting out.
They arrived at Big Moose Mountain and everyone was excited. They arrived right on schedule and were getting ready for their first event -hiking up the mountain. But first, they wanted to get something to eat. So Sally asked Mike if he would prepare the meal and, of course, Mike said he would.
About 10 minutes later he came back and told Sally, "I can' make the supper. I can't light a fire with the matches you brought."
Sally replied, "I can't understand that. Those matches should be perfectly fine. I tested them all just before we left."
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Thursday, February 14, 2008
The Glory Of The Ordinary
For this reason, I believe in celebrating the courage of the ordinary. The courage of the ordinary is what George Bailey exhibits in It's a Wonderful Life - he passed up many opportunities for adventure and greatness because he was committed the people in his life. He lived what on the surface appeared to be a quite ordinary life ... he courageously stayed committed to family, friends, and his small place in the world. And then, in the moment of crisis, he was blessed to see what a great impact he indeed had.This is a great blog post, you really should read the whole thing. I'll wait.
The courage lies in sacrificing the luxury of charting our own course so that we might take care of others. This is different from a mindless conformity; the courage lies in the choice. The courage lies in being faced with the dizzying opportunity to run away with the circus, to abandon commitments, to chuck it all and follow the Grateful Dead, to run off in search of ourselves ... whatever the siren call to extraordinary life might be...and voluntarily and willfully declining.
I believe that God created each human life as having value. That does not mean that the value is expressed in the same way. Part of the glory that God has placed upon mankind lies in the very expanse of capacities that are given us. The way to honor the varying expressions of God's glory in mankind is not through a one-size-fits-all policy where all children get A's. It is not through diminishing the accomplishments of the great so that the rest of us don't feel bad. The right way is through honoring glory each in it's kind.
The ideas Russ puts forth here have mighty implications for the church. Virtually every church heaps too much "glory" on its clergy, and in this day and age, "worship leaders," (Funny, when I was on Young Life staff, we just called it "leading songs.") praise bands - you know, all the people collecting a paycheck. For some churches, like Russ and I's PC(USA) we often place the ordained laity somehow above the fray as well, although that is less and less so these days.
The primary implication of Russ' comments for the church is that leadership is just another job, no better or worse than all the other jobs in the church. And frankly, the kind of egalitarian view of impact that Russ calls for demands more of leadership than the job itself. It is up to leadership to perform its job with sufficient humility to encourage the other jobs. It is also up to leadership to show those other jobs their importance.
This also creates a radically different picture of Christian maturity than we often see. In this case, maturity is about being a good person in your circumstance rather than putting yourself into some circumstance that gives you impact. How many churches do you know that are teaching people how, simply, to be good people. People who take their faith seriously seem to end up "feeling a call" to something extraordinary. But real Christian maturity by this model, is felling called to the ordinary.
Have you felt that call lately?
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Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Who Is Responsible For Your Growth?
In reality, as followers of Jesus, we are called to feed ourselves and feed others who are new in the faith.Now, on the agreement side with this post is the fact that it is in large part a call for the average Christian to take his/her faith seriously. Quoting Perry Noble:
"Today as Christians we have WAY more information than we could ever apply. However, I think many people use 'going deep' as an excuse as to not actually apply any of the knowledge they claim to be soaking up.But on the other hand this very much seems to be a call that confuses the job of the evangelist with the job of the church. The church is called to be much more than merely a resource for the "mature" Christian. The church is intended to be the COMMUNITY in which the mature Christian dwells and from which he/she reaches out to the greater world.
Time to get very pointed. Everybody quoted in this stuff is pastors that from my perspective appear called to be evangelists. They want the church to exist to support their evangelistic efforts. That frankly is not what a pastor is called to. A pastor is called to shepherd the community that is the church. That dear friends is why Timothy stayed in one place a lot and Paul kept moving.
There are a lot of pastors out there that need to reexamine their call. Instead of whining about how church people are not maturing, they need to LEAD THEM TO MATURITY.
If you want to be an evangelist, then by all means, be one. But do not confuse that with pastoring a church.
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Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Pick Up Your Hammer
Christians have been exiled from the cultural, moral and intellectual center of our society. With every article detailing the moral failure of a Christian leader, new accounts of priestly impropriety, lawsuits over church property or Christians amassing fortunes in the midst of poverty, we grow increasingly irrelevant. This irrelevance is not the result of the church's inability to keep up with contemporary musical tastes or its insistence on traditional theology. Our exile is the consequence of our failure to live out our vocation: making disciples. This vocation is more than convincing people to pray the sinner's prayer or apply for church membership; it is the process by which we help people discover the new life made available in God's kingdom.Lee then cites Nehemiah and the notion that confession what the place to start:
Neh 4:10 - Thus in Judah it was said, "The strength of the burden bearers is failing, yet there is much rubbish; and we ourselves are unable to rebuild the wall." [emphsis added]Quite a challenge to the pastorate is it not? Lee concludes:
Of course, our job doesn't end with confession; it is only the first step. We must prepare ourselves for the long journey ahead. So grab your hammer. We've got work to do.Are you willing to get busy? There is one other bottom line to all this. As the people doing the work, it is not about us, it is about the other. We may build the wall but we will not likely see its benefit. As those that worked with Nehemiah we will be beset from all sides. This is not work that will gather us crowds or admiration, that stuff gets aimed in some other direction, if it happens at all.
Think about this - do you know who held the hammer that built your house? Thought so.
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Monday, February 11, 2008
Feeding Your Addiction
1. Self-righteousness ought to be the number one enemy of the Christian. My greatest battle is against me - not you, not the world, not Phillip Pullman or any other Christian enemy du jour.Those are fantastic points! I want to rephrase them a bit:
2. We must abandon any kind of Christian movement or initiative which is predicated on a sense of moral superiority. This doesn't mean that we abandon theological positions or social/political views which we believe are true (and therefore, in a sense, superior to those we believe are false). But it does mean that we hold to these things knowing that we are always unable to live up to our highest ideals.
3. We treat self-righteousness as the addiction it is. Just as an addict is ever on the alert for the substance which will cause him to stumble, so we must be ever on the alert for that which will cause us to feel superior and/or produce an advantage to us at the disadvantage of another.
- The first call to a Christian is HUMILITY
- HUMILITY must be in foremost evidence in all that we do as Christians, because:
- We will ALWAYS have good reason to require HUMILITY of ourselves.
You know in many ways the Christian life is about goals and paths, not destinations. In the points that David makes we see that it matters much, much less WHAT we do as Christians and far more HOW we do it. Phrased another way our first goal is to be the person Christ intends us to be and being that person is reflected in how we approach pretty much any task, not the task itself.
I am continually intrigued by the cookie cutter approach to faith -- the kind of thing that offers "Ten Steps to XXX" or "A Plan For Your Life." Those things are always about what to do, they never ever hit at the real crux of the matter.
Dallas Willard is fond of discussing the Sermon On The Mount as Christ's instruction manual. There is some wisdom there. Consider some of the more well-known take-aways from that sermon.
- "Consider the lilies..." that entire little passage is about NOT WORRYING, you cannot "do" emotions like worry, they are a reflection of who you are.
- "...adultery in your heart," again, Christ illustrates that simply not committing adultery is not enough, he wants to change who we are enough that the desire is removed.
David starts his post talking about weight loss. Here is a hint from someone that has lost 100's of pounds. It's not about the diet, that amount of self-control simply does not exist. It is about changing who you are, particularly in relationship to food. It is not enough to control the desire, the desire must be gone, and you cannot remove it from yourself.
Why don't we all pray today that God remove the desire to sin from each of us. Watch how things will change.
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Sunday, February 10, 2008
Sermons and Lessons
Arthur Cushman McGiffert, Professor of Church history, Union Theological Seminary, New York, 1893-1927; born Sauquoit, N. Y., March 4, 1861; graduated Western Reserve College; 1)1)., 1892; D.D., Harvard, 1906; graduated from Union Theological Seminary, 1885; University of Marburg, (Germany, Ph.D.)., 1888; studied in Germany, France and Italy; instructor of Church history, Lane Theological Seminary, Cincinnati, 1888-90; professor from 1890-03; author of “A Dialogue Between a Christian and a Jew,” a translation of Eusebius “ Church history,” “A History of Christianity in the Apostolic Age,” “The Apostles’ Creed,” etc.
The age in which we live is notably religious. I will not say that there is more religion within the Christian Church than in other days, or that we Christians are distinguished above our fathers by the sincerity and vigor of our religious life, but certainly the multiform religious sects that are springing up all about us, the growing discontent with existing forms of faith, and the eagerness of many both within and without the established religious communities to listen to those who have anything new to offer in religious lines are evidence of a deep and wide stirring of religious impulse and interest. humanity at large is so constituted that religion of some sort may fairly be regarded as permanently necessary to it, but as the needs of men change the religions in which they have been trained may easily cease to meet their new demands, and a new faith may come to be substituted for the old. This has occurred repeatedly in history. The displacement of the Greek and Roman paganism by Christianity is one of the most notable and familiar instances. Christianity won its victory in the Roman Empire and became finally the religion of the state simply because it met the needs of the age as the older cults were unable to do. The faiths of Greece and Rome were the fruit of ancient conditions and even before Christianity appeared new needs had developed which made new religious conceptions and practices a necessity. The result was that foreign cults of all sorts became popular and the old ones underwent large changes in the effort, conscious or unconscious, to meet the new situation. had Christianity not come upon the scene the traditional paganism, radically modified to meet the demands of the day, might have retained a permanent hold upon the Roman Empire. But the new faith, born in the new age, and responsive from the beginning to its new needs, was fitted as the older could not be to become the religion of the new world and its victory was inevitable.
It has often been remarked that our age bears a striking resemblance to the period in which Christianity first saw the light. The eager curiosity, the social unrest, the lively intercourse between different parts of the world, the developing spirit of cosmopolitanism and sense of human brotherhood, the disappearance of old and familiar landmarks, the common questioning of traditional standards, the multiplying of religious sects, the prevalence both of rationalism and of superstition, the loss of faith and the search for certainty - in all these and many other respects there is a close kinship between the earliest and the latest of the Christian centuries. It was a period of change on a vast scale and so is this. Are we to suppose then that as the ancient paganism gave way before the young and lusty Christianity so Christianity in its turn is to be crowded off the field by some new faith or by no faith? There are many who think so and who talk about Christianity as an outworn system fitted only for an age that is gone. In reply to them it is not enough to show that Christianity still meets many needs of many hearts, needs which remain ever much the same - that it comforts the sorrowing, strengthens the weak, raises the fallen as it has always done. It must be shown rather that Christianity not only does this but also meets the new needs of the new age. What then is this new age? What are its characteristic features and its peculiar needs?
The modern age is marked by a vast confidence in the powers of man. For many centuries it was the custom to think of man as a weak and puny thing. Humility and self-distrust were the cardinal virtues, pride and self-reliance and independence the root of all vice. The change is not the fruit of speculation, a mere philosophical theory as to man’s relation to the universe, but the result of the actual and growing conquest of the world in which we live. We are not completely its masters to be sure, but we understand it far better and control it far more effectively than our fathers did. The past century has given the most brilliant demonstration the world has ever seen of what human power can actually accomplish in the material realm, the realm of the tangible and the visible and the audible. Science and mechanics have combined to give the modern than a sense of mastery undreamed of in other ages. What such a man most needs from Christianity (and he is the representative man of the modern age, whose presence in overwhelming numbers chiefly distinguishes this age from those that have preceded it) is not condemnation for the pride of accomplishment, exhortations to humility, and the offer of healing from above, but the chance to use his strength in ways that are most worth while - higher ideals, larger opportunities, vaster realms of service.
Another marked characteristic of the modern age is its widespread and controlling interest in the present world. With all its sorrow and suffering and distress, the world seems to the representative modern man a better and a more satisfying place than it did to the representative man of an older day. It is not simply that this earth has become more interesting as we have learned more about it, and the present life more comfortable as material conditions have improved, but that the future possibilities of human life upon this planet seem so tremendous. Characteristic of a former time was its conviction that all had been learned and accomplished that man was capable of, that the golden age lay in the past and that nothing better was to be looked for. Characteristic of the present time is its unbounded faith in the future, based upon its solid experience of the past. Pessimism there is in plenty, as in every age of the world, but optimism not pessimism is the dominant temper of this young and confident century. And again, what the age needs from Christianity is not a demonstration that this earth is a poor and unsatisfying place, but the vision of a work worth doing now and here, a work worth doing for this world, in which the thought and interest of the modern age so largely center.
Another characteristic of our age is its growing social concern, which is the. fruit in part of the modern interest in the present life just referred to, in part of the general emphasis on solidarity and unity which succeeded the eighteenth century emphasis on individuality. The social conscience of Europe and America is now more wide awake and more generally active than ever before. Opportunities for social service are steadily multiplying, character is more and more interpreted in social terms, and their obligation to labor for the promotion of the welfare of society is increasingly felt both by individuals and by institutions. Our generation is burning with zeal for social, economic and civic reform, and is controlled by the idea of human brotherhood and marked by its practice as no generation ever was before. And again, what such an age needs from Christianity is not to be told the supreme importance of personal salvation, but to be given a social ideal grand enough to fire its imagination, to arouse its enthusiasm and to enlist its devotion.
Has Christianity then a message for the modern world, or does it belong wholly to the past and minister only to the same needs it always has? If so, it may expect to find itself more and more disregarded by modern men. All too many indeed disregard it now. It is not that they are hostile to Christianity but that they care nothing about it. It seems to address itself only to interests which they do not share. The old needs as experience shows, may be revivified, or even recreated on a larger or a smaller scale where they do not al¬ready exist, but to create artificial needs in order to meet them when the modern world is full of real needs of another kind is a sorry business. If Christianity cannot do more than this it is an outworn faith and the past only not the future belongs to it. But Christianity is not an outworn faith and the future does belong to it, for it has a message for the representative men of this modern age. It ministers not only to permanent human needs which are common to all times and places, but also to the new and peculiar needs of this twentieth century.
The greatest fact in modern Christian history is the rediscovery of Jesus. He is better known and understood to-day than He has ever been before. The recent development of historical study and criticism which has revolutionized traditional opinion upon all sorts of matters has given us a new insight into the origin and growth of Christianity. The Jesus of the synoptic gospels has been finally set free from the integuments in which the devotion and the misunderstanding of the Christian Church early enswathed Him, and has been allowed for the first time to speak for Himself. And the striking feature of the situation is that He speaks a language which the modern age, with its genial confidence in men, its vivid interest in the present world and its profound concern for social betterment, is peculiarly fitted to understand. His message is just the message that the modern world is looking for.
The kingdom of God was the burden of His preaching, not a kingdom lying simply in another world beyond the skies, but established here and now - ” Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth “; not a kingdom made up of isolated human lives moving along their several and separate paths toward heaven, but of the society of all human kind banded together in common labor under the control of a common purpose; and not by some supernatural and miraculous means was the kingdom to come, while men sat by and gazed in awe upon the power of the Almighty, but by the work of Jesus Himself and of those that came after Him, by the devotion and energy of human lives working at one with the divine will. When Jesus said,” Follow me,” He meant nothing else than laboring with Him at the same task, in the same spirit.
The kingdom of God on earth - what does it mean? We answer perhaps glibly enough: the control of the lives of all men and of all their relationships one with another and of all the institutions in which those relationships find expression by the spirit of Jesus Christ who has shown us what God is and what He would have this world be. The answer is profoundly true, but it needs to be given a more definite content. What is actually involved in the kingdom of God on earth? Is it only a vague form of words, a beautiful but intangible mirage; or is it really something concrete and practical? Does it affect only ethics and religion, or social, economic and civic matters as well? Does it mean merely the improvement of individual character or also the trans¬formation of society and the State; the modification of details in our existing systems or their radical reconstruction; the grafting of new principles on the old or the repudiation of all we have and the birth of a new world? Can our present civilization really be Christianized or must it give way to an altogether different order? Is it a dangerous thing, this kingdom of God? Does it cut too deep to be welcome or is it simply the fulfillment of our faith and hope? And how is the kingdom to be established? What methods are to be adopted, what principles followed and along what lines must the work proceed? It is not to answer them that I have propounded such momentous questions as these. Who in¬deed can answer them today? It is only to emphasize the importance of the problem. All other problems pale beside it. In it the Church of the twentieth century, to which has been committed the responsibility of leadership has the most difficult, the most complicated, the most pressing problem that it has to face. We Protestants have hardly more than played with it hitherto. In the Middle Ages the Catholics grappled with it and actually evolved an international state which they called the kingdom of God and which dominated western Europe for centuries. It was a grand conception, magnificently carried out, but it was not the kind of kingdom Jesus was thinking of nor the kind of a kingdom the world needs today. We live in the modern age and the modern age has turned its back forever on medievalism whether in State or Church. We do not want the spirit of otherworldliness to distract men from their duty to this world, but to inspire them to it. We do not want the future to overshadow the present, but to transfigure it. We do not want the supernatural to crowd out the natural, but to fill it with divine meaning. We do not want a recrudescence of priestly or ecclesiastical authority, but the birth of the spirit of Christian service. Freedom, spontaneity, individuality, opportunity, confidence and self-reliance, all these precious gains of the modern age we must preserve. But we must have also love, sympathy, fellowship, cooperation and an ideal worthy of our common devotion, our common effort and our common sacrifice.
The kingdom for which medieval Christians toiled was for still another reason quite a different thing from the kingdom of God which Jesus had in mind. He did not mean another institution, set up in the midst of the existing institutions of the world into which a man could enter from without. The kingdom of God which Jesus revealed is not identical with the Christian Church. It is the reign of God, of His purposes, of His ideals, of His Spirit, in the lives of men and in the relationships and institutions of the world. It is the world itself brought into harmony with God’s will; not a dualism of two kingdoms, but one kingdom only - God‘s world and ours - controlled by the spirit of Christ. For this the Christian Church is called to labor; not to enlarge and glorify itself and to seek to dominate, but to make itself the most efficient instrument for the transformation of the world into the kingdom of God.
It is a vast and splendid thing, this kingdom of God of which Jesus dreamed. It is not for one type of mind, one form of character, one sort of temperament alone, but for all the sons of God the wide world over. It is rich enough to supply the most varied needs. It offers opportunity to the strong, activity to the strenuous, visions to the seer, comfort to the sorrowing, peace to the troubled, to all service by doing or enduring, by giving or receiving, by the spirit of Christ in active conflict or in quiet meditation.
It is a divine thing, this kingdom of God. In it God‘s supreme purpose finds expression, His purpose to promote the reign of the spirit of love among men. It is for this that God is, and this is what God’s love for the world means. In human brotherhood the divine Fatherhood finds fulfillment. Through human brotherhood alone the Father’s purpose for His children comes to accomplishment, and through human brotherhood alone His children discover Him. God Himself is back of the kingdom. We did not invent it. Its ideals are not of our making. They have been given us. They are higher than we could have dreamed of. They lift us above ourselves. We rise to meet them and find expressed in them the best that we can know. In this kingdom the divine and the human are inextricably interwoven. In it there is communion with God as His desires fill our souls and His purposes are made our own, and in it there is the power of God as the inspirations of His presence lay hold upon us. And yet it realizes itself only in the experience of man. We do not find it by turning our backs upon the world and ceasing to be human, we find it only here in human life itself. It is rooted in the inner man, in his affections, his will, his character, but it comes to visible expression in all sorts of ways as the external relationships of life are brought one after another under the control of the inner disposition.
It is both material and spiritual, this kingdom of God. It ministers to the body and to the soul. Not as in earlier days when the Church thought only of the spirit and looked upon the body with contempt; not as today so many social reformers, even Christians, seem to think only of the body and disregard altogether the higher things of the spirit. Unlike both, Jesus ministered at once to the outer and the inner man, and the kingdom of God which He proclaimed means the weal of the one as of the other, means a social order in which there shall be food and drink and clothing and shelter, a just share of the physical goods of life for all God’s children, and in which there shall be also for all of them the consolations of divine communion, the inspirations of human fellowship, the glow of sympathy, the joy of service, the trinity of faith and. hope and love.
It is a Christian thing, this kingdom of God. The greatest gift of God to the world is Jesus Christ. It is just this which differentiates the kingdom we proclaim from all man-made Utopias. His life, His character, His teaching, His work, His spirit of service dominating the world - this is what the kingdom means. In it is not merely our self-taught love and devotion, but the love and devotion of the Christ, kindled in our hearts as we have looked upon Him and caught the inspiration of His vision of God. The prophets too preached the kingdom of God, and exalted their conception was; but they - had not seen the Christ, and it is not the kingdom of the prophets we proclaim to the world but the kingdom of the Christ. In Him God has given the full revelation of His purpose for the world, and His aims, His motives, His estimate of values, His hopes are those that we would have the world share.
It is a uniting, not a dividing force, this kingdom of God. Not setting the present over against the past, the Church over against the world, the conservative over against the radical, one community, one nation, one sect over against another. It gathers them all up into one; for it is broad enough to include all the best of the past and of the present and of the future yet to come; grand enough to enlist the devotion of men of every people, clime and faith; and large enough to unite the whole world in a vast confederation of labor, not for the greatest good of the greatest number but for the greatest good of all; not the good of competition, which blesses one at the expense of another, but the good of cooperation which blesses both alike. Not by jealousy and envy, not by sectarian zeal and religious fanaticism, not by national bigotry and class prejudice, not by the forcing of opinions and customs upon others, but by the union of all men of good will of every race and condition, by the sharing of their visions and by the linking of their faiths and hopes and efforts shall the kingdom of God come.
The great task of the Christian Church of the twentieth century is ready to its hand. Upon the Church devolves the chief responsibility for the bringing of the kingdom, for to it has been vouchsafed the supreme vision, in Jesus’ revelation of His Father’s will. The Church has had many large tasks in the past which it has met in a spirit of consecrated heroism - the conversion of the Roman Empire, the planting of a Christian civilization among the barbarian people of western Europe, the establishment of the world Church of the Middle Ages, the recovery of the gospel of Christ and its incarnation in new institutions in the sixteenth century. It is in the face of great tasks that the Church has always shown itself at its best and it may well be grateful when they come. If ever there was such a task it is before us now.
We are on the eve of great happenings. No one familiar with history and able to read the signs of the times can for a moment doubt it. Unfortunately the Church, as too often in the past, has temporarily lost its leadership. It continues to minister beautifully and efficiently to its own members and to bless the lives of multitudes of them, but it is not in the van of progress and much of the best life of the world has turned its back upon it and is pushing on alone. There have been periods when the world lagged behind the Church and the Church‘s one task was to urge it forward. To-day no small part of the world is ahead of the Church.
We Christians are apt to be much too easily satisfied. We are complacent if our churches hold their own, if our better families can still be counted on, if respectability still dictates, even though hardly so imperatively as in other days, connection with the church and attendance upon its services. But this is not to be in command of the situation and it gives no large promise for the future. We are content with too little and the great modern world with its teeming masses, its eager enthusiasms, its burning problems and its untold possibilities, is in danger of slipping away from us. And yet what a message we have for it! The kingdom of God on earth, the control of all the relationships of life and of all the institutions of society by the spirit of Jesus Christ.
Is it a mere idle dream, the coming of God’s kingdom on this our earth? It is the dream of Jesus Himself, and shall not His disciples share His faith? Is it vain after all the efforts of these nineteen centuries to hope that the thing can ever be done? But the thing has never been tried with that singleness of purpose to which Jesus summoned His followers. That is a momentous fact to be taken account of in every estimate of the future. The Christian Church has, tried to do all sorts of things and in many of them has been remarkably successful. But it has never made the kingdom of God on earth, the reign of the spirit of Christ in all the relationships of life and in all the institutions of society its supreme aim. And so we need not be discouraged because the work is still unaccomplished. It is a new task to which the new insight of the Church summons it. Made wise by all the experiences of the past, endowed with a new charity and breadth of vision, taught the evils of disunion and the necessity of cooperation with all the forces of goodness everywhere, the Church is justified in entering upon its new mission with courage and with confidence.
Let us no longer stand upon the defensive; let us no longer regret a past forever gone; let us no longer be content to minister to the needs only of a small and select portion of the community; let us no longer indeed think so much about needs and think more about opportunities and obligations; let us keep our eyes fixed upon Jesus’ glorious vision of the kingdom of God, of a new earth in which dwelleth righteousness, of a regenerated society controlled by His spirit. So will Christianity again as in the days of its youth rise exultant to a world-wide task. And this strong, manly, eager, busy age will respond with enthusiasm to an ideal worthy of its wisest planning and its best effort, the transformation not merely of individual lives into the image of Jesus Christ, but of this great earth into the kingdom of God, His Father and ours.
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