Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? Hebrews 2:3 (NLT2)
68 We must never regard the sacrament as a harmful thing from which we should flee, but as a pure, wholesome, soothing medicine which aids and quickens us in both soul and body. For where the soul is healed, the body has benefited also. Why, then, do we act as if the sacrament were a poison which would kill us if we ate of it?
69 Of course, it is true that those who despise the sacrament and lead unchristian lives receive it to their harm and damnation. To such people nothing can be good or wholesome, just as when a sick person willfully eats and drinks what is forbidden him by the physician.
70 But those who feel their weakness, who are anxious to be rid of it and desire help, should regard and use the sacrament as a precious antidote against the poison in their systems. For here in the sacrament you receive from Christ’s lips the forgiveness of sins, which contains and conveys God’s grace and Spirit with all his gifts, protection, defense, and power against death and the devil and all evils.
Sin can be forgiven but not corruption, simply because at the root of every corrupt attitude there is a fatigue for transcendence. In front of God who does not get tired of forgiving, the corrupt person gets tired of asking for forgiveness.
You can’t go to a seminar for church leaders where you won’t hear about the “nones”, the people who have no religious affiliation at all, that won’t even declare themselves agnostic, or atheist. They are described by those who “observe” them as apathetic toward any form of organized religion.
I am not sure as I would describe them as the apathetic ones.
I think I would describe as apathetic those who believe we can’t reach them, just as five to ten years ago we gave up on GenX and tried to focus on the millennials. You might be thinking I am talking about being apathetic about out-reach, about Evangelism,
I am not, I think our problem is deeper than that, that our apathy starts with the very salvation and the presence of God. It starts with what Martin Luther called despising the sacrament, or “getting tired of asking forgiveness” that Pope Francis describes as being subject ot corruption. We see it as well in Paul’s words in Hebrews, asking what hope is there for those who neglect so great a salvation.
As a pastor, as one who trains others in ministry, what I’ve learned is that people can only respond so long to motivational cries for evangelism before they burn out. They can only keep their purpose-driven lifestyle up so long before it fades and disappears and we lose our first love. If doing our duty is our motivation in our being missional, in working where God has sent us to be a light, then we will fatigue like metal, We will allow our spirits to be corrupted.
Some call this backsliding, others term it a “falling away”. I simply think a spirit of apathy has found room in our hearts and slowly taken over. Instead of maturing in our relationship with Jesus, we’ve allowed it simply to age, to get old. As it ages it becomes more fragile, brittle, and even bitter.
Where is the answer?
It is going back to what is amazing, what moves us from the fear of God into being in awe of Him. In once again finding the joy that comes when we know we are forgiven, that God is restoring our relationship with Him, and restoring the calling in our lives. We need to see the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist as the incredible blessing it is, and the promise of again knowing we are forgiven, and that God desires to share in our life, as He invites us to share in His.
The medicine that cures apathy is God’s mercy, applied to the wounds in our lives caused by sin. That healing changes us, and as we experience the fact that we are loved, that God rejoices when we allow Him to forgive and heal us of the damage inflicted by sin. That promise, fo forgiveness realized is not easily forgotten, nor that feeling as we take and eat, and take and drink, and experience the depth of God’s love. Prayer, reading the scriptures, remembering the promises given to you in baptism, receiving Christ in the Lord’s supper, and hearing your sins are absolved renews your faith. A renewed faith is full of joy. That joy is contagious, that joy, lived out day to day is noticeable…..and you can’t be apathetic about it.
That joy is the thing that will attract the “nones”
You want to reach a broken world? Let God reach you in your brokenness… and heal you of your sin!
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 454). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 234). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.