Monday, June 11, 2007

The Beehive Church

Fr. Stephen Freeman writes,

Our American way of life has tended to mold the local church into the local religion store. It offers various programs and activities that keep everyone involved and even maximizing the “ministries” of its members. But it can also simply be a beehive of activity, none or little of which has much to do with the healing of the soul.

In every activity of the Church, whether it is liturgical, or educational, or building buildings, what have you, each activity should serve for the healing of the soul and the nurture of the true self. If not, then the Church has simply become one more secular activity that is destroying true life rather than fostering it. (read the rest here)

What I love about Fr. Stephen is how he takes observations common to many priests and pastors and then pushes them a bit further than some of us do. I’ve observed many times (and sometimes on this site) how the congregation is often anything but a place of prayer and healing for wounded sinners. Programs and more programs and doing stuff are what many pastors are tempted to push; they are also what people like to see.

But Fr. Stephen pushes a little harder, observing that “the Church has simply become one more secular activity that is destroying true life rather than fostering it.” By “true life” he means True Life, the life for which we were created, the life for which Christ died, the life to come in the Resurrection that is even now being formed in our lives.

We Lutherans love the story of Mary and Martha. Many of our Ladies Aid societies are even named after them (and don’t forget the great Lutheran hymn “One Thing’s Needful” (text below)). We love Mary and how she sits at the feet of our Lord, hearing His teaching, and obviously learning her doctrine. We love to make implications about receiving from Jesus and trying to serve Jesus, and how there’s a nascent works-righteousness going on in this text (probably not, but that’s beside the point).

But we’re just Marthas, believing that church is all about being Ablaze or having committees, or doing programs for this age group or that, about having enough for a good Sunday School. It makes us like the world.

One Thing’s Needful

One thing’s needful; Lord, this treasure
Teach me highly to regard;
All else, though it first give pleasure,
Is a yoke that presses hard.
Beneath it the heart is still fretting and striving,
No true, lasting happiness ever deriving.
The gain of this one thing all loss can requite,
Can teach me in all things to find true delight.

If you seek this one thing needful,
Turn from all created things;
Turn to Jesus and be heedful
Of the peace and joy He brings.
For where God and man both in One are united,
With love and forgiveness the heart is delighted;
There, there is the worthiest lot and the best,
Where Jesus alone is your joy and your rest.

How were Mary’s thoughts devoted
Her eternal joy to find
As intent each word she noted
At her Savior’s feet reclined!
How kindled her heart, how devout was its feeling
While hearing the wisdom that Christ was revealing!
For Jesus all earthly concerns she forgot
In love and devotion to what Jesus taught.

So my longings, upward tending,
Jesus, rest alone on You.
All my life on You depending,
Teach me what to will and do.
Although all the world should forsake and forget You,
In love I would follow, I’ll never desert You.
The words of Your teaching, O Lord, are my life,
My joy and my peace in this vain world of strife.