O Gracious Father, we humbly beseech Thee for Thy Holy Catholic Church,
that Thou wouldst be pleased to fill it with all truth and in all peace.
Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it.
Where it is right, establish it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it;
for the sake of Him who died and rose again and ever liveth to make intercession for us,
Jesus Christ Thy Son our Lord.
The Book of Common Worship of the Presbyterian Church (USA), 1946, 1964.
It is a tumultuous time to be a part of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Our culture is shifting and with it our church. Some changes are for the better, some relate to things indifferent, and some run counter the tradition we have received as members of the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic church. I have my opinions which readers of this blog will likely know. Rather than write about issues, today I’d like to offer some words to those of us (which is really all of us, regardless of our theological orientation) living through these times of change. In a sense, I am writing this post to myself as much as to anyone else. If, then, you are so inclined, join me in reflecting on how we can respond to the challenging times in which we live.
- Do not be afraid. Offering God’s help to Israel, Isaiah prophesies: “[D]o not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand” (41:10). Fear is natural, but fear can give way to faith when we prayerfully recite and rely upon God’s covenant promises to us found in Scripture. The reformers used a motto that captures the broader perspective of the trials we know face: post tenebris lux–“After the darkness, light.” Christ is Lord of his church and he has not forsaken her.
- Do not be hasty. The Proverbs contain this admonition: “Desire without knowledge is not good, and one who moves too hurriedly misses the way” (19:2). When we are afraid or anxious, it is easy for us to rush to judgment. In so doing, we easily move too fast and perhaps move further or faster than we ought.
- Do not cease in prayer. Prayer is central to the Christian life: it is one of the chief means of grace. Paul writes, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12). God both hears our prayers and by our prayers works in our lives to give us comfort and care.
- Do not compromise your convictions. Scriptures gives us the example of Daniel, who remained faithful to God even when instructed not to pray. If there are matters upon which, like Luther, we find that the Word of God will not allow us to compromise then we must stand firm. It may mean that you’re the only vote against a motion; it may mean that you do not participate in some service or action of a church of council. Regardless of what it is, stand firm.
- Do not cease confession. Nothing is more dangerous to the soul than sustained theological disputation. By nature we are prone to sin and nothing is more tragic than winning a theological argument while losing one’s soul. Martin Luther remarked, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” He also is famous for having said, “I have so much to do today that I’m going to need to spend three hours in prayer in order to be able to get it all done.” The heroes of our faith were all men and women who dedicated themselves to prayer.
Final Question: How do you deal with challenging times?
6 Replies to “Some counsel in challenging times”
Jeff, appreciate your thoughtful and measured counsel when the situation the PCUSA is in can easily evoke extreme responses of various sorts.
Thank you Jeff, very needed at this time.
We (PCUSA) fight like Christian Jihadist’s, under the banner of not compromising our convictions.
We don’t have to agree on the other guys’ theology we don’t personally hear, we simply have to let the other fellow hold their faith as near and dear as we hold ours. All that is keeping us from working together for God’s Glory is choice. And we choose not to. I’m right and you’re wrong is the only message PCUSA is sending to the world.
If there can be Reasonable Disagreement, then there can be Reasonable Accommodation. We can’t even choose to do that and hide behind false prayer and confession.
These are all solid tips, based on a foundation of prayer. Thank you for delineating these.
I do not know the struggles of which you speak (although I can guess at some of the hot topics if they relate to the hot topics going on in the country this year).
In these tips, I do see how these relate to my individual circumstance, which is marked by uncertainty.
When two sides are in conflict (the enemy loves that), I think it takes a special person to call everyone back to the basics, which is prayer. I hope that those areas of apparent disagreement are “held up to the light” (not sure I like this weak euphemism for prayer, but thought I’d try it out in this safe forum) and that people do take a step back, take a deep breath, remember the history and values they share and try to focus not on each other nor on their differences, but on God.
Thanks for your thoughtful comments Julie.