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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

ichabod or scribbling on the wall?

"Ichabod" means "the glory has departed." Some say that has happened in the institution of the Presbyterian Church USA, but I disagree. I see God's glory all around me, including within this part of the Body of Christ. I would assert, rather, that the "lighthouse" and "searchlight" that God has designed us to be is, human failings notwithstanding, still a vessel for God's glory to be manifested.

I would go on to say that God is not only able, but intends to show His glory through whatever He does with the PCUSA. That may be redeeming the institution; it may be a long period of preserving a faithful remnant in the midst of human brokenness and disobedience; or it may be the destruction and judgment of that human institution.

Further, I believe God is not only able, but purposes to use those who are obedient to bring about His glory, regardless of the particular trajectory of the denomination. Believing this, we see that we are not called primarily to fix OR to abandon the PCUSA, but to be faithful in personal obedience and public ministry. I believe that in so doing, we will participate in God manifesting His glory.

I long for that obedience to take the form of complete redemption of the institution; alternately, I would admit relief to have clear release to minister somewhere that is a better “fit” theologically. But finally I choose obedience (if reluctantly) if the present reality is persisting obediently in a broken institution.

Does that mean I am “letting go and letting God” and not engaged in being a change agent, as some might suggest? On the contrary, I am as engaged in denominational renewal as anyone I know. But I do so out of a sense of calling rather than the frustration of “one more battle in the big war.”

There is a deep stream of strength and peace that flows out of that calling. I write to remind my brothers and sisters who are weary of the "war" that you are called not first to “fight” but rather to faithful obedience to the One who called you to service of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

These are thoughts that I have wrestled with for years, but which I find myself needing to verbalize more of late. This morning I read the following quote from The Problem of Pain, by C.S. Lewis. His words resonated deeply with what I'm trying to put words to:
Those Divine demands which sound to our natural ears most like those of a despot and least like those of a lover, in fact marshal us where we should want to go if we knew what we wanted. He demands our worship, our obedience, our prostration. Do we suppose that they can do Him any good, or fear, like the chorus of Milton, that human irreverence can bring about ‘His glory’s diminution’? A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell. But God wills our good, and our good is to love Him (with that responsive love proper to creatures) and to love Him we must know Him: and if we know Him, we shall in fact fall on our faces. If we do not, that only shows that what we are trying to love is not yet God - though it may be the nearest approximation to God, which our thought and fantasy can attain. Yet the call is not only to prostration in the Divine attributes which is far beyond our present desires. We are bidden to ‘put on Christ’, to become like God. That is, whether we like it or not, God intends to give us what we need, not what we now think we want. Once more, we are embarrassed by the intolerable compliment, by too much love, not too little. [h/t: Shane Duffy]
See also the elaboration HERE

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