Religion column: Angst in the pews

Published 7:00 am Saturday, October 19, 2019

By Fr. Jonathan Filkins

When Jesus was being interrogated by the Pharisees for his interactions with the unwashed publicans and sinners, he responded, “They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but the sinners to repentance.” We may surmise it set the antagonists back on their heels, as they were very aware, albeit in their own denial of darkness, of the nature of sin itself; for they were quick to justify the superiority of their behaviors and attitudes.

Consider that such an approach to our spiritual lives continues on in each of us; even if it is only a tiny bit of ourselves.

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While we may not be tax collectors, ergo those publicans, we are all sinners to one degree, or another. This is an undeniable truth of our humanity. While our mindsets may be focused upon God, and our lives given up to him, it is because of the fallen nature of ourselves which cause us to make errors; to be away from God’s will and promise.

What is most astounding is this quite remarkable message of Eternal Salvation; which we have heard for two millennia and peals from the rooftops with the same clarity as when first uttered for us; should we pay attention. As God, through Jesus Chris is, “the same yesterday, today and forever,” we rely on this constancy of generosity and grace to feed our souls, and give us hope.

Yet, in this supernatural Covenant we seem ready to keep “stirring the pot.” It is as though we cannot leave well enough alone. Even in our houses of worship, we find the darkness, skulking about in the shadows. People perceive some slight and they leave to attend elsewhere.

Others start “new” churches; while others cease going at all. Perhaps they support their actions with some scriptural verse, or two. Somehow, the idea of real sinners always standing outside the church, rings as untrue as the Pharisees relating they were the betters.

It is so easy to get caught up in the fever of the machinations of the Church Politic. Someone in the church says something; or someone does something; or someone fails to live up to an expectation, and we are deeply offended. Reliably, our emotional temperatures rise in indignation because of this, or that, perceived failure. However, we, far too frequently, disregard the potential danger of pursuing such a path; even in the Church of God. Put directly, we may be decidedly un-Godly in God’s house.

This is not exclusive to a single church, denomination, or belief system, in the Christian community. We too all are prone to presenting ourselves as away from controversy, or issue. But, in our silence, we must consider our part, in that silence. If we are the focus, or the engine behind the focus, then we are to examine our parts. None of us gets all of the credit, as none of us get all of the blame; regardless of events, or circumstances.

Saint Paul, in his letter to the Church at Ephesus, directed the faithful to, “put on the whole armor of God.” He instructs being fully shod for battle with breastplate, shoes, helmet, sword and shield; for righteousness, peace, faith, salvation and spirit. This is what we are called to do, as we acknowledge the ongoing war, both within and without ourselves, against God. This is the true war we are waging, not against others for some fleeting issue, or concern.

God’s presence within us is shown by our thoughts, words and deeds; as it has been since Jesus Christ founded his church and established the New Covenant.

His ministry spoke then, and speaks to us now, about what we are to be and what we are do.