Thursday, April 26, 2007

Does This Sounds Like Your Church?

This happened to us at a recent Easter Sunday service. In the sermon we heard (and listened for, but didn't hear) the following:

1. We did not hear a clear connection made of the events of the Resurrection to the events of Good Friday, and in particular our Lord’s substitutionary atonement on the cross. We heard no mention of sin. Without making these connections, is it not difficult, or impossible, for hearers to understand the Resurrection as much more than a nice thing that happened to a nice man? Put another way, calling unbelievers to “embrace” Christ makes little sense unless the unbeliever clearly hears, and feels experientially by the operation of the Holy Spirit, that he or she is a sinner in need of salvation from the wrath of a just and holy God.

2. Sadly, the message as a whole, and in particular the illustrations given, seemed to bear little connection to the text of the Scripture.

3. Probably because of issues no. 1 and 2, what we heard was, to put it as charitably as possible, a less than clear presentation of the Gospel call. This was perhaps the most distressing of all. Why the Gospel call would not be clearly presented on an Easter Sunday -- Resurrection Sunday -- of all days, is very difficult to understand. Needless to say there were many present who desperately needed to hear the Gospel. What they heard instead, we fear, was essentially a pep talk urging them to embrace Christ because, the impression was left, they would be missing out if they wait. But why should they, if in all probability (as was suggested), Jesus will embrace them eventually? Why should they not conclude, “That’s great, I’m covered, now let me get back to my basketball game?”

Ashamed of the Gospel at Virginia Tech

Frank Pastore's column on Townhall shows the denial of the faith that passes for "Christianity" today in the motivational speech at the Virginia Tech convocation:

We gather also to drink deeply of the religious streams which have refreshed parched peoples for many generations. We gather together, weeping. Yes, we weep with an agony too deep for words and sighs that are inexpressible. But also we gather affirming the sovereignty of life over death.

At a time such as this, the darkness of evil seems powerful indeed. . . And yet, we come to this place to testify that the light of love cannot be defeated.

Amid all our pain, we confess that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. We cannot do everything, but we can do something. We cannot banish all darkness, but we can by joining together, push it back. We can not undue yesterday’s tragic events, but we can sit in patient silence with those who mourn as they seek for a way forward.

As we share light, one with another, we reclaim our campus, let us deny death’s power to rob us of all that we have loved about Virginia Tech, this our community. Let us cast our lot with hope in defiance of despair. I invite you to observe a moment of silence.

There is nothing of the gospel, nothing of Christ, nothing of sin, and nothing of salvation. In short, there is no hope. The listener is left without God and without hope in this world. There is only one oblique reference to scripture, but it is left unexplained -- who is "the light" that shines in the darkness, and why has the darkness never overcome it? What is "the darkness" anyway? All of this is left unexplained.

Sadly, this is all too often what we hear from the pulpits of our churches; the apostasy is only more easily visible in the ELCA.

How many listeners, I wonder, who believed themselves to be Christian, thought they were hearing a "Christian" message?