Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Gerald Mann tells the true story of a pastor and his family who had something horrible happen as they were arriving in a new community where a local church had called them. Just as they entered the town, their baby, the couple's only child had a seizure. They rushed him to the local hospital where all attempts to revive him failed. There, in the hospital waiting room where she’d gotten the horrible news, the mother was understandably distraught and screamed out to God, occasionally using profanity.Of course, initially I was horrified for the pastor and his wife. Living in that situation, even for the short period of time it would take to extract oneself from it would be simply hell. But even more horrifying is the fact that such a hell-on-earth exists under the banner of the Church of Christ. Mark says it flat out:
One of the nurses on duty was a member of the congregation. She told the congregational leaders how the grieving mother had initially reacted to the death of her child. Those leaders, in turn, went to their denomination’s area superintendent to say that because of how “unspiritual” the pastor’s wife was, they wanted a different pastor.
The superintendent told those leaders that the members of that church needed to learn what it is to be the church, a fellowship where imperfect people can share the strength and the power to live which the resurrected Jesus gives to all who believe in Him.
The congregational leaders didn’t like that answer at all. And so, the president of the congregation pulled the new pastor aside and said, “Well, I guess we’re stuck with you. But don’t you ever mention the death of your son or any pain you may be going through. We hired you to make us feel good, not to join you in your family’s difficulties.”
Followers of Jesus Christ know that arrogance is inconsistent with our faith. We know that it leads us to kill one another, if not literally, then with our words, actions, and attitudes.*Mark drives throughout the sermon towards confidence without arrogance, rooted in true humility. What a very difficult goal. That's a balancing act between many competing forces of self, the world, and sin. Even God knows that we will fail to walk that razors edge throughout our earthly lives. So let's ask a question, "On which side of the balance should we err?"
We know, too, that Christ gives to all who turn from sin and follow Him, all who grasp God’s grace, the unshakable approval of God.
We know that we have God in our corners forever, helping us to become our best selves.
Yet the war in the gut that James writes about in our lesson today happens inside those of us who believe in Jesus Christ as much as it does in non-Christians.
May I suggest on the side of humility and lack of confidence. In the illustration quoted we see the damage caused by erring on the other side - we damage others, we damage the church, and we damage the name of our Lord Himself. But if we err on the side of humility we risk only damaging ourselves. Is that not the example of Christ on the cross?