Friday, July 22, 2011

I'm so happy...

Michelle Bachman, in response to the hullabaloo surrounding her former membership in a church body that confessed that the office of the Papacy is antichrist (that's a Lutheran church, by the way), had this to say: "I'm a believer in Jesus Christ. I was born into a family where we were Lutherans. I'm sure that the Gospel was preached from the pulpit. I just didn't hear it." According to the NPR story, "Bachman then went on to describe how at 16 she gave her heart to Jesus Christ."

"I don't hear the Gospel," is a charge I've heard a couple times recently. And, according to other Lutheran preachers, it's a fairly common charge. But it's a very serious charge. If a Lutheran pastor is preaching and not preaching the Gospel, he should repent and preach the Gospel or he should be defrocked.

So why does the charge persist? I think, in part, because what the complainer means to say is not that he doesn't hear the proclamation of Jesus Christ the Crucified, who takes away the sins of the world, who comes in Word and Sacrament to deliver faith and forgiveness of sins. Instead, the complainer means to say, "I expect the Gospel to make me feel good, and sometimes church just doesn't give me that good feeling I want."

Well, that's different. The Gospel is not a guarantee of happiness. It's a guarantee of joy, but sometimes joy and sadness coexist. Sometimes an unfettered joy at having one's sins forgiven can coexist alongside the sadness of having to struggle every day against our old sinful flesh.

One professor at semonary called this the "backspin of the Gospel." The pure proclamation of the Gospel, that all sins are forgiven for the sake of Jesus, contains just a bit of sadness, that these sins existed in the first place, that you weren't able to free yourself from the mire of your sinfulness.

Sometimes there's heartache in beauty, sadness in joy, melancholy in forgiveness. All that aching is to point toward the future, toward the day of Christ's return, when our sinful selves will finally be put asunder.

In the meanwhile, if you're a little gloomy, enjoy this video from Hocus Pick (formerly Hocus Pick Manoeuver), a Canadian Christian rock/ska band from my boyhood:

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