The first millennium of church history ended with little of interest to most.
Theological developments were at a minimum as the church turned to political and liturgical concerns.
What I thought might have been of interest was that it has long been believed that there was an outbreak of “millennial madness” as the year 1000 approached.
Some groups, equating the year 1000 with the thousand years mentioned in Revelation, were sure the Second Coming was at hand and gave away their possessions, joined monasteries…and were fervently disappointed when February 1001 rolled around.
There is debate over that now…most of the sources that speak of such events are from 500 years later.
History is only as accurate as it’s source material, and the closer the sources to the time of the events recorded the better.
Because of that, we take the reports of “millennial madness” with a grain of salt.
The century following the new millennium was a different story…much of importance here.
Roman Catholicism under Pope Leo IX excommunicated the Patriarch of Constantinople of the “filioque issue” and the long simmering split was final.
The RCC had other issues…between 1044-1046 three different men claimed to be the pope at the same time…kind of makes a mess of apostolic succession.
The practice of granting (paid for) “indulgences” took hold in this century and would lead to even more schisms in a few hundred years.
The theological rationale behind indulgences was this…since only one drop of the blood of Jesus was enough to atone for the sins of the whole world…and he bled more than one drop…there is now a storehouse of inexhaustible virtue that the Pope can tap and offer to those who perform the required actions. This ability to confer the stored merits of Christ (and Mary) to the living penitent was also extended to the dead in purgatory… for a price.
Indulgences were what fueled the Crusades, which began in 1095.
In 1009 the Muslims took Jerusalem and destroyed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The Pope promised a full indulgence, complete pardon…to those who would help take it (and other holy places) back.
An estimated 300,000 took him up on his offer…and Christiandom retook Jerusalem, Clermont, Nicaea, and Antioch.
They retook them more brutally than they had been taken…pillaging, plundering, and massacring their way though the Holy Land in the name of Jesus.
Modern historians have radically different takes on these events…they are worth your study.
“There are no virtues wherein your example will do more, at least to abate men’s prejudice, than humility and meekness and self-denial. Forgive injuries; and ‘be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.’ Do as our Lord, ‘who, when he was reviled, reviled not again.’ If sinners be stubborn and stout and contemptuous, flesh and blood will persuade you to take up their weapons, and to master them by their carnal means: but that is not the way, (further than necessary self-preservation or public good may require,) but overcome them with kindness and patience and gentleness. The former may show that you have more worldly power than they (wherein yet they are ordinarily too hard for the faithful); but it is the latter only that will tell them that you excel them in spiritual excellency. If you believe that Christ is more worthy of imitation than Caesar or Alexander, and that it is more glory to be a Christian than to be a conqueror, yea to be a man than a beast – which often exceed us in strength – contend with charity, and not with violence; set meekness and love and patience against force, and not force against force. Remember, you are obliged to be the servants of all. ‘Condescend to men of low estate.’ Be not strange to the poor of your flock; they are apt to take your strangeness for contempt. Familiarity, improved to holy ends, may do abundance of good. Speak not stoutly or disrespectfully to any one; but be courteous to the meanest, as to your equal in Christ.”
It was a gift from my pastor who had modeled it’s contents without my knowing.
It is basically a long job description of what it means to be a pastor…and I believed it.
I was called to be a servant of God and men, a hard working, devoted servant with no aspiration to be anything but faithful.
There was little concern in my mind over denominations or affiliations, no thought at all about attending conferences, writing books, social media, politics, or networking.
It was all about Jesus and the people He gave me to care for.
If you wanted to be “somebody” you needed to find another line of work.
According to this model of ministry, you watched your life far more closely than anyone else’s.
You preached the sermon to yourself first…and you repented before your people heard you speak.
Your life was now their life and Gods…and you were called to pour yourself out to both.
You weren’t going to be well known or well paid…you only pursued this path if you were called and you checked to make sure the call had the right number.
You were never going to be “cool” or “hip” or fashionable again…you were going to be sanctified.
Those days and that model are leaving or gone and I’m having a very hard time getting used to that fact.
Now we strive to be like our corporate counterparts…sitting on top of the hierarchy, delegating “duties’, seeking cultural “relevance”, and endlessly self promoting.
We stay above the pews, untouchable and unaccountable because of our ‘position”.
The parishioners now judge us on the quality of our presentation and take their real spiritual cues from celebrity strangers.
The sheep are without a shepherd, but there is wi-fi available in the pasture.
We are becoming the church in exile, but we have a strong online presence.
“Can any reasonable man imagine that God should save men for offering salvation to others, while they refuse it themselves; and for telling others those truths which they themselves neglect and abuse? Many a tailor goes in rags, that maketh costly clothes for others; and many a cook scarcely licks his fingers, when he hath dressed for others the most costly dishes. Believe it, brethren, God never saved any man for being a preacher, nor because he was an able preacher; but because he was a justified, sanctified man, and consequently faithful in his Master’s work. Take heed, therefore, to ourselves first, that you he that which you persuade your hearers to be, and believe that which you persuade them to believe, and heartily entertain that Savior whom you offer to them. He that bade you love your neighbors as yourselves, did imply that you should love yourselves, and not hate and destroy yourselves and them.”
On Wednesdays we remember that a brother languishes in a foreign prison.
We do more than just remember, however…we stand with him by using our social media to advocate for his release.
We ask that you change your Facebook profile picture to his and that you “like” the “Free Saeed” Facebook page and participate in some of the activities that promote his cause.
We ask…that you remember him and his family in prayer…and that you refuse to give up on efforts to secure his release.
His wife has asked that we write letters to him as well;
Writing letters to Saeed in prison is a great way to let the Iranian government know that there are many who are concerned about him and it helps keep him alive and treated better at the prison. Here is the address to Rajaei Shahr prison. Please join me in writing letters to him. It should cost $1.10 for postage. You can share scripture and about Jesus as long as you are not attacking Islam or the Iranian government.
1.Memorial Day has become just a holiday...a day when our thoughts turn to the good weather, barbecues, and leisure activities. I don’t think that was the intent behind creating it. I’m not a veteran, nor have the wars fought in my lifetime been noble, though the men who fought them were. Thus, it’s difficult for me to know what my thoughts and actions should be on this day. What would the veterans who read here like us to know and respect on this day? This should be all about them, not us…
2.The reason often given for weak or no responses from religious organizations in a scandal is the threat of litigation possible or already in progress. What happened to the biblical concept of suffering loss for the sake of the Gospel and the kingdom of God? What is really being said is that protecting the group and it’s leaders financially is more important than the Gospel and far more important than the spiritual health of those affected by the lack of confession.
3.The lie that #2 perpetuates is that certain groups and leaders are more important than those in the pews and are somehow indispensable to the work of God at this time. That is a bald faced lie, spoken or unspoken.There hasn’t been a hero of the faith yet that God hasn’t buried. The kingdom moves on.
4.When a pastor or group eschews open confession and repentance in the face of their own sin they deny the Gospel as surely as if they denied the resurrection…because they deny the grace and power of God in redemption and restoration.
5. “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”(Matthew 5:23–24 ESV) Note that it doesn’t say ignore the offended, stay quiet, and hope they go away…
6. When you conflate the Gospel with any secondary doctrine, you diminish and defeat the essence of the Gospel itself.
7. One of the most inane results of the SGM/TGC debacle is now you have people picking sides like they are rooting for a sports team. Tullian or Trueman? Keller and Carson or R. Scott Clark? All of these men have made contributions to the church that deserve our study and thanks…I refuse to indulge in this ridiculous media fueled demand that I damn one side to praise the other. Go and do likewise…
8. If you think “The Harbinger” is biblical, I wonder how you passed your drivers license test.
9.Boz and Tullian represent their Grampas legacy better than his boy Franklin…in my opinion of course.
10.You know that leaders are blowing smoke when they split over scholarly distinctions in secondary doctrines while ignoring Scriptures your kids have memorized…
The witnesses tell us that your promises persist and will come to fruition; We find that retelling of such promises deeply compelling in our own lives.
You are the God who reached our family not yet formed.
You uttered promise and sent father Abraham on his daring way.
You assured mother Sarah of impossibility and sent her laughing in disbelief.
You hoped them to new land, and since have been giving sons and daughters and futures and possibilities, beyond all that we can hope or imagine.
We are the glad carriers and recipients of those promises.
We live each time from the trace of your future that keeps surprising us with gifts and chances and hopes.
But your promises seem so flimsy, so risky, so unsure.
We keep fashioning better guarantees.
We lie a little here and cheat a little there.
We add our own securities, and then find that every land of promise becomes a turf of killing dispute.
The promise fades; it feels more like we are on our own.
So do this yet today.
Match the goodness of your promise with the daring of our faith.
Let us trust beyond seeing, risk beyond laughing, yield beyond calculating.
By supper time give us the freedom that belongs to your “Yes,” Your “Yes” we have seen fleshed in glad obedience. Amen.
Walter Brueggemann. Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: The Prayers of Walter Brueggemann (p. 34). Kindle Edition.