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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Truly Ancient-Modern Prayer

Today, as I was in Morning Prayer, I ran across this entreaty in the Lutheran “Treasury of Daily Prayer”:


Lord God of truth, You converted the apostle Paul from persecutor of the Church to courageous preacher of the true Gospel that Jesus Christ gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age. Deliver us from all false gospels, so that we remain faithful to Christ alone, whose death and resurrection are the source of our salvation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

The petition asks for us to be delivered from all false gospels, and clearly defines (in short hand) what the true Gospel is. This requires some thought, some contemplation. For the collect (pronounced call’-ekt) beautifully echoes Galatians chapters 1 through 3, while opening up to modern applications.

The “all false gospels” that confront us today are in some ways similar to the false gospels in Paul’s day, and in other ways dissimilar. Most lean heavy on productivity, output, efficiency. One alternative gospel makes Jesus into some kind of divine Norman Vincent Peale or celestial Anthony Robbins. Try harder, use Bible-saturated psycho-cybernetics, demand God’s riches using Scripture as a magical incantation. If you’re having bad health, bad luck, or bad times, it’s because you don’t have faith! The gospel of faith-in-faith is no gospel. It’s a depressing legalism.

Another erroneous gospel makes God beholden to us because we’re Americans. The god of the Pledge of Allegiance, or of our American coins, or of our American Presidents’ “and God bless America” may or may not be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. But no matter the case, the problem is the nearly ubiquitous notion that, of course, god must like us and will take us to heaven because, well, shucks; we’re Americans. It’s related to the previously mentioned gospel in that it is full of “prosperity” thinking. You can know god’s elect people by their position in the corporation or on the ball field. You can know whom god has favored by looking at their house or bank account. This gospel of Americanism is no gospel. It’s an oppressive, crushing nationalism.

There are those gospels of race (instead of grace) that become garishly obvious in White-Identity-ism. This is where “Israel” (and thus, the “saved”) gets defined as the “White, Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, Germanic Caucasians” of Pete Peters and Sheldon Emory (to name a few). But that same gospel of race shows up in less obnoxious ways, where church is done with “our kind” - and “our kind” means “our kind” with regard to economic level, “our kind” on the educational level, “our kind” who wear the right name brand on their kahkis, “our kind” of worship styles, “our kind” who do or don’t have tattoos/piercings, etc. This gospel of segregation is no gospel. It’s a shattering, scattering, splintering tribalism in the name of Jesus.

Then there is the gospel of the “super spiritual”. For example, when twisted versions of Dispensationalism promote Judaistic trends, like blowing the shofar, wearing prayer shawls, keeping a Saturday Sabbath, observing kosher dietary restrictions as ways of becoming really spiritual, really closer to Yeshua than those plebian non-Judaist “Christians.” They’ve fallen right into the very false gospel Paul and Peter and John fought against. This gospel of uber-spirituality is no gospel. It is truly anti-gospel.

Return to the prayer at the beginning of this post. You will see that it is spot on for our day. It is truly an Ancient-Modern prayer.

Mike

Followers