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West Bend, WI – Praised be Jesus Christ. Even with the clashes and conflicts that did come home to us in the United States in the past 40 years, it remains true that recent times for us here have been stable ones. So much so that many of us in our 40’s and younger have never really known what it is like to live with true social upheaval, or to live without basic freedoms, or to go without necessities for lengthy periods of time.
There are many blessings to such essentially peaceful stretches as these, but there are pitfalls as well. A chief danger of stability is that it can foster complacency. It also has the potential to delude us into believing that we ourselves are the source of our security, and as a result, we develop overconfidence in our ability to solve any problem that confronts us. We grow forgetful of the fact that progress is actually not inevitable in our fallen world, and that death will always be with us. To put this in classical Christian terms: we forget that we need a Savior, thinking instead that we can save ourselves.
If one is paying attention, however, it is clear that we do still need a Savior. The last few years have brought about a new level of social upheaval that we have not lived through in this country for a while now. A major contributor to the wider social upheaval is what might be termed the steady, decades-long rise of personal upheaval.
There has been relative peace on our borders and in our streets, but there has been a declining peace in our homes and in our hearts as most of our established social conventions have evaporated. Politics, science, medicine, military might, economic forces, and social media trends are the dominant cultural anchors in our post-Christian society, and none of them is much of an anchor at all. We sense this in our very bones.
Our prior personal anchors of stable marriage, the domestic family, of producing children, and of knowing what is male and female are also called into question on a massive scale. All of this destabilization leads to ever-rising levels of personal and social anxiety as we cast about for anything to grab on to in order to stabilize ourselves.
The remedy is Christ. We must be able to say that Jesus Christ is Lord. To utter that famous Scriptural expression is to place all hope, trust, faith, and security in a source that is not of this earth. A secular thinker scoffs at something so silly, but a sensible person looking around at the world realizes all too quickly the astonishing genius of an anchor that originates in a realm other than this one. This world is beautiful, but it is fundamentally broken. It does not have the power to fix itself. A Christian knows this and clings tightly to the authority and power of God, while still living in the broken world with hope and with joy.
To say Jesus Christ is Lord by necessity eliminates any other competition to the role of Lord in our hearts and in our society. It places every single possible earthly voice of authority in its proper place, namely a place that is always secondary rather than primary. God reigns supreme and He places everything under his feet. Paradoxically, God does this by bending down in humility from his throne to stoop before us and wash our feet. He reigns as a Lord of love in a way that no other earthly entity can. In this way, His Lordship is the greatest protection of human rights and dignity.
If I know that only the Lord is Lord and that He reigns as a servant, then I also know I can never be Lord over anyone else by attempting to make them my servant. Conversely, if I forget that Jesus is Lord, then I make myself Lord and force others to be slaves to my way and to my will. The way of secular man always ends up being the way of coercion. Conversely, the authentic Christian way of Jesus the Lord always ends up being the way of compassion, and the protection of the weakest.
Our theme for this coming year at our parishes is Jesus Christ is Lord. The world needs to hear us say it. We ourselves need to say it. Jesus Christ is Lord.
As you may know !