It’s That Season!

Pastor’s Blog: It’s That Season

“…For I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:5b-6).

Lent, the time of spring cleaning of heart, mind, body, soul, and relationships, (yes, and even the Church!) begins for Christians on February 14, Ash Wednesday, 12 noon or 7 p.m., at St. Matthew’s. We begin in silence and then, as the pastors enter, we pray in unison David’s 51st psalm. Its most familiar words were sung by Lutherans for years as the offertory, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” We are marked with ashes to remind us we are dust and to dust we shall return. We are marked with the sign of the cross to remind us God has in Christ already done something about our destiny with death. But spring cleaning begins with assessing what’s really wrong in our lives.

Idolatry is not Christian artwork as protestants (but not Lutherans) contend. Idolatry is, as Martin Luther wrote, to fear, love, and trust in something other than God.

According to the law of unintended consequences, those who grew up in the Great Depression and went on to fight or support World War II idolized their children so much, they decided to give them everything most never had…especially a college education. With the Marxist invasion of American institutions of so-called higher learning, many of the children of the Greatest Generation rejected the faith and values of their parents after a proper Marxist indoctrination. Sadly, even today, you may see parents in their late 80s and 90s still taking care (at least financially) of their adult baby boom children.

The turbulent 60s followed with further unintended consequences. Praise God, the risible theory of “separate but equal” was revealed as the devil’s own work, for “red and yellow, black and white” are precious in His sight! But, again, those who grew up in the Great Depression and Kennedy’s so-called “brightest and best” gave us “The Great Society,” which continues to nurture a permanent underclass. And limousine liberals still get elected proclaiming its merits. If after 54 years anyone still believes the big lie that modified socialism actually works, then it’s only because they never do more than troll for votes and then get the hell out of inner cities before some gang member shoots them.

The baby boomers’ children got the full benefit of their parents’ “higher” education. Children of divorce grew up in daycare and/or dropped off at suburban malls with cash in their pockets. What a surprise that drugs were readily available to unsupervised kids with money. If Gen Xers were baptized or went to church, they saw the “Me Generation” their parents became in the 70s and joined in, too. What a great surprise that the megachurches of the 90s and beyond appeal to Gen Xers and those who follow. But…giving “me” what I want in the form of message and music, even if it’s bait and switch, does not fit with the discipled life. “Whoever would save his life will lose it” (Mark 8:35). “Whoever loves father or mother, son or daughter, more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37). Idolatry isn’t art work!

Once a year, Christians observe the most solemn day, Ash Wednesday (and not Good Friday)! Lent begins with facing the truth about ourselves. We are born in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. Our idols, which can include our children and even adult children, make lousy gods. Our idols provide false comfort especially to those who have nothing else.  Vainly and seductively,  they offer us meaning, significance, a sense of worth, a relief from pain, and a shelter in the storm. But they cannot be God, and our idols will let us down and may even kill us.

Scratch beneath the surface of the so-called new atheists, and you will usually find people in bondage to drugs and alcohol or some other pleasure-based “religions.” You will find people making childish arguments about the ascendancy of science over God, and then get to watch them discover that their idol cannot save them or those they love from death.  So much of the rejection of God  comes from those who have no room for God, because, after all, it’s all about “me.” The local “rag” loves to take hundreds and even thousands of dollars from those purchasing lengthy obituaries that recount a fourth place medal in the elementary school spelling bee or an honorable mention as an all-region athlete some fifty years earlier. Yes, give them legal pot, abortion on demand, and assisted suicide so they can amuse themselves to death while their idols take and take and take heart, mind, body, and soul daily.

The LORD (YHWH) God declares in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 that those who worship other gods will hate Him from generation to generation, and they will surely get what they ask for…His absence from their lives. Indeed the books of Joshua and Judges, with all their blood and gore, show what happens when God’s people go their own way and chase after idols that cannot save or deliver.

Lent begins this Wednesday. Even if you are the most nominal of Christians, you ought to be in worship on Ash Wednesday. If you don’t know diddly about the Christian faith other than it’s the target of dubiously labeled comedians and Hollywood’s award-winning liars, you might wander in to worship at 612 South College this Wednesday at 12 noon or 7 p.m. If you aren’t baptized, we won’t commune you, because you aren’t yet a member of the family.  But you will hear the truth about who we all are…those wandering from God and in need of saving and healing. All of us need a whole lot of spring cleaning!

I offer a special appeal to those whose hearts have been recently broken. You can always find someone to get drunk with on Valentine’s Day and to lay down beside you even though it’s not real.  On Ash Wednesday, you learn there is a God who loves you more than His own life. He wants to give you the life and the love that lasts forever. Idols always take. God always gives us what we need.

Return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love!

St Matthew's Pastor Sam Zumwalt

szumwalt

The Rev. Dr. Samuel Zumwalt has worked in churches for 42 years and in May 2018 celebrated the 37th anniversary of his ordination to the holy ministry. He is a member of the Society of the Holy Trinity (www.societyholytrinity.org). In 2004, Pr. Zumwalt moved with his family to Wilmington from Texas, where he served for 23 years as pastor of small, midsize, and large congregations.