Fear 10.0

First published in GraceNotes of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church http://gracenotes-htlc.com/2019/11/20/fear-10-0

With more than a nod to C.S. Lewis and his Screwtape Letters, I offer this message I intercepted from the IT Department in Hell (you think you get weird stuff in your social media). If you know what the enemy is up to, it can help:

“To all demonic administrators and lowly minions of evil:

Please be advised that we are currently upgrading the anxiety/fear/terror software in your human subjects to version 10.0. (Frankly, we’ve been at this so long we don’t know what iteration this really is…). Added to the operating system are new applications related to the coming 2020 election. These improvements enhance the hate level for those with opposing views and the despair level regarding future outcomes. If we continue to make good progress dividing people into imaginary little binary groups (one of our greatest inventions) they will fall apart. We grudgingly must say “glorious evil work” to those who have so successfully turned their subjects in high places to replace any dangerous commitment to the common good and the rule of law with farcical attacks, conspiracy theories and childish conduct. Bravo.

Of course, this just builds on the underlying sub-routines that steer your subjects from thinking for the common good, replacing that creator-driven design flaw by aggrandizing the way the world revolves around their “individual” identity. The me-centric matrix has been a brilliant addition and we merely deepen its hold on the false reality algorithm built in the basic operating system where community is the basis of identity.

Remember, if we can effectively frame every decision around “the self,” civility, civil loyalty, and democracy itself will eventually collapse. (I think you will find that our master and lord of darkness is delighted at the progress on this front in recent events. We claim the credit, but must admit, sometimes the human species does our work for us). Our progress toward a system that completely negates all sense of concern about the subject’s neighbor is ongoing.

Some of you have pretended wisdom and dared to ask questions about what you see as growth of the human “community” surrounding the deliciously disastrous degradation of creation. You fail to see that the negation of any sense of neighbor extends to all creations and creatures of the Enemy. If your subject will not raise a finger to help the human next door, certainly, they will not care about a tree. Besides, because they are being reprogrammed to think only of themselves, they will be so overwhelmed by the scope of environmental damage they will retreat to watch TV about it, at most. They can only address the problems they face on a global scale communally. If you are doing your job as demons, that won’t happen! Just tell them its hopeless to recycle, or that the facts of the matter are a conspiracy. 

You need not worry (though by mentioning this, we revel in knowing you now are) about many of the foundational processes running in your patients. Replacing the divine enemy’s reality of abundance for all creation with the insidious lie about never having enough will continue to result in panic, poor choices, greed, heaps of fear and the delightful erosion of the soul to a bite size morsel. You will note we have expanded the anxiety and terror related to scarcity to time itself. You should be seeing increasing devotion of time in all manner of activities that fill the days of your subject beyond carrying capacity. The successful rejection of the sabbath nonsense provided by the creator, has led to the fear that your subjects are failures unless they are busy, productive, active, or whatever, every waking moment. In fact, success is now being seen at eroding sleep time with activity which overloads the subject’s ability to ward off our attacks. That subjects are able to pass this on to their spawn is gratifying. All for now. Keep up the evil work.

May you all burn in the fires that await the fearful,

Wormwood – Director of Human Sin Software

Fear is the opposite of faith. Not doubt. Not hate. Fear. It seems to me that with each passing day there is more and more that frightens us into lives full of despair and hate; that lack meaning and struggle to find peace. We have everything, but we’re empty.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in one of his marvelous sermons said this:

Fear is, somehow or other, the archen­emy itself. It crouches in people’s hearts. It hollows out their insides, until their resistance and strength are spent and they suddenly break down. Fear secretly gnaws and eats away at all the ties that bind a person to God and to others, and when in a time of need that person reaches for those ties and clings to them, they break and the individual sinks back into himself or herself, helpless and despairing, while hell rejoices… Fear takes away a person’s humanity. This is not what the creature made by God looks like—this per­son belongs to the devil, this enslaved, broken-down, sick creature. https://politicaltheology.com/overcoming-fear-sermon-dietrich-bonhoeffer/

The Bible tells us to not fear or not be afraid 655 times, by my count. The antidote to fear is the absolute declaration that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Fear is the soil in which sin and evil grow. The bully on the playground (or the halls of government) act out of fear. The narcissist acts out of fear that they don’t matter. The greedy are afraid the barns are not big enough. On it goes. When fear has stripped away our humanity, we lose empathy, compassion, and we lash out is hate. Our nation; our world; our city; our lives are filled with fear. And none of that has to be. Christ is the truth that sets us free from fear.

Think of the 5-10 things you fear most. Write them down. Now ask yourself what Christ, through the power of the Spirit living in you has to say about these things. I think it will begin with the assurance of the savior – Do not fear.

“Those who are still afraid of men have no fear of God, and those who have fear of God have ceased to be afraid of men. All preachers of the gospel will do well to recollect this saying daily.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Pax Christi – Pastor Tim Olson

Copyright 2019 Holy Trinity Lutheran Church

Broken Church

Five hundred and two years ago, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, touching off a debate and conflict that came to be known as The Reformation. Thus ends the most predictable sentence a Lutheran pastor could type in the days leading up to Reformation Day. It would now be predictable to shout the praises of brother Martin and point to the eternal truths revealed in that historic moment. I’m not going to do that. I’m actually tired of doing that.

One could say that Luther and other reformers sensed deeply that the Church of Jesus Christ was broken. The 95 Theses were a kind of inventory of the wreckage.  You could look at the Church as an institution and find corruption and all manner of idiotic proclamations of “truth” that bore no resemblance to the gospel or the Christ who uttered it. The Church just wanted to find more ways to keep itself in power. The people were uninformed about the faith and cared little for growing as Christians. They just did what the were told to avoid the damnation they feared.

Sound familiar? We live in an age where the Church is no less broken. Maybe it is even more so. Denominations struggle to be relevant while keeping their place and power as an institution in a culture that cares not. Congregations are more concerned about “surviving,” no matter what they have to do; what they have to give away or give up, than about being the transforming body of Christ in the world. 

We are deeply concerned about “Nones” (those who answer “none” to questions about religious affiliation. In fact, a significant cause of “nones” is that so many of us Christians should say “nominal” when we answer questions about religious affiliation. We are nominal in our commitment, knowledge, engagement with faith and so exhibit no compelling evidence in our own lives that would encourage someone to become engaged in faith. We are, at best, tepid.

The truth is, that like the Church of 500 years ago, the Church of today is broken. It is in need of house cleaning, change, transformation of the kind that happened five centuries ago.

I’m no Martin Luther – nothing even close. But, as I think about it, there are a few theses I would offer if we are to address the Church’s brokenness.

  1. The use of religion as a means of keeping people out, apart, inline, under control is over, folks. We need to stop with the judgmentalism, the hate, the exclusion if we say we worship a God of Love.
  2. The notion that believing the right thing makes you “saved” must give way to living a life, each day, steeped in confession, forgiveness, and growing into Christ. 
  3. “Saved” does not mean bound for heaven when you die. It means that your life is being ever more deeply united with Christ and so becoming ever more eternal every day.
  4. Prosperity is not the same as abundance. You can’t buy love, happiness, meaning, or anything that matters. Abundance comes from union with Christ as it is found in a community of people who live like Jesus.
  5. Our insatiable consumption and rabid individualism is killing us and the planet we inhabit – faster and faster each day. We must repent and return to sustainable, communal, earth-bound habits of living at peace with all – and with ourselves.
  6. Our politicians, our teachers, our bosses, our coaches, our celebrities cannot save us. Only God has a deep enough resume for that project.
  7. God’s economy has nothing to do with capitalism, Wall Street or “return on investment.” It has everything to do with justice, all being fed, and all sharing in the peace and joy of God.
  8. Every congregation will die; every denomination and nation will disappear. Death is not a final word and all that matters is how much love happens while you’re around. Fearing death is silly.
  9. If you hate someone, you hate God.
  10. You only matter as a person as you matter in a community. So, be humble, gracious, forgiving and never assume you are the smartest person in a room or on a social media feed. That makes you a fool.

I could go on, but that is 10% of Luther’s production. We are a Broken Church, no doubt. The Good News is that, like the Reformation 500 years ago, our Lord is a broken savior. He dies on a cross and was raised from the dead so we would never fear brokenness and pain; so that we w=could walk boldly into the fierce waters of change and nor drown. 

So, this weekend, as we remember the Reformation, lets be a broken Church, dependent on a broken savior so we can save a broken world together. Amen

copyright © 2019, Timothy V. Olson.