Nov 04 2012

Covered in the Masters Dust: Relevance or Faithfulness: An All Saints Day Reflection

Original post at http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/CoveredInTheMastersDust/~3/XQtmb8RN02M/

“The Church needs to be more relevant!” ”If you want to attract a new generation, you’ve got to be relevant!” “The Church has lost touch with people, it needs to be more relevant!”

These are some of the generic statements one might hear at most any leadership training, group forum, or casual conversation among clergy. The consensus seems to be that church decline is largely due to an “out of touchness” that marks the Church these days. And the solution seems to be that if we have any hope of be in ministry with those currently outside of church, then we’d better get cracking on finding ways to be more relevant.

If the church is going to survive, then we better stop looking so much like church, and start being something more relevant.

So what are some possible solutions?

What about music? Yes, we need more relevant music. People don’t want to hear boring hymns played on pipe organs anymore. And make it happy music. No depressing stuff. That’s a good place to start!

What about church structure? Yes, we need a church structure that understands people lead very busy and mobile lives. You can’t expect people to be at worship every Sunday anymore. We need services on days other than Sundays. And we need to be able to reach people where they are even if that’s not in person on a Sunday morning. Good idea!

What about trying to meet the needs of modern people? Yes, we need to give people biblical principles for the issues they face everyday. Tell them what the Bible says about a topic. We don’t need to worry with teaching people how to read the Bible in such a way that might change them — no time for that; too many other tasks to accomplish. Excellent idea!

Now I’m writing a little tongue-in-cheek here. Believe me, on our very best days we can be the Church in very relevant ways for all people — those inside and outside of our walls. But some days it’s a good thing to be the Church in such a ways that appear odd. 

Yesterday we celebrated All Saints Day. It’s an annual occasion for the Church that is observed on the 1st Sunday in November. And maybe it was somewhere between the singing of For All the Saints and the reading of the names of those in our congregation who died this past year that it occurred to me just how odd our worship service was. For church people it might have felt normal. But for those worried about being “relevant,” it was very strange.

You see, the “relevant” thing to do is live for today. It’s relevant to live by the motto Carpe Diem (“Seize the Day”). We’re not guaranteed tomorrow so today is all we have. It’s also relevant to put the past behind us. No one likes to live in the past. It’s good to move on with life. Remembering the past has a way of sucking the fun out of the present. It’s also relevant to think we can avoid death at any cost. Surely there’s a pill we can take, a diet we can try, a deal we can make to ensure we’ll live forever. Death is definitely not a relevant topic.

And yet on this day every year the Church gathers to be as irrelevant as we can be. We claim that remembering the past is a major part of what it means to be Christian. We talk about today, but only in terms of how our past and futures informs it. No one is “seizing the day” because Christ did that in his death and resurrection. On All Saints Day we remember we are powerless in the face of death but for the grace and resurrection power of God. And we sing sad songs that remind us of our loss but also affirm us of a hope that’s greater than our loss. Once a year we gather as a community, open old wounds, remember the past, and sing about a triumphant future when God will wipe away all tears and we feast at heavenly banquets together. Surely none of these would be classified as “relevant.”

To be this irrelevant, you have to get up early on Sunday mornings, get dressed, and go find a place that dares to occasionally be irrelevant by singing strange songs, doing weird actions like sitting and standing and bowing, and hear strange messages about death and life that you can’t find anywhere else in the “relevant” world.

To be this irrelevant, you’ve got to go find, well, a church.

For All the Saints

For all the saints, who from their labours rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!  


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