Monday, October 19, 2009

Perseverance and Persecution Complexes

One of the professors I work for at Fuller teaches courses on Spirituality.  As part of my job, I sometimes I have to type out prayer services to be used in his classes.  This "Prayer Appointed for the Week" comes from The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle, for use on the "Monday - Nearest to October 19" (how convenient that October 19th is Monday this year!)"
Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen. †
I am struck by the reference to perseverance.  Since the "Church" is the antecedent in that sentence, this doesn't sound to me like the kind of thing we talk about when we talk (for example) about needing God's strength to help us through hard times.  There are lots of prayers for that, too, of course (and we certainly need them!).  Rather, this strikes me more as a statement about the Church, that is, the collective body of Christian believers, needing God's assistance to survive as an institution.

It's hard for me to hear a thought like that without being reminded of the constant barrage of statements by certain Christians about our faith being "under attack," usually by certain political elements.  My gut instinct is usually to dismiss such proclamations as those of people with a "persecution complex."  That is, people who fear that, if they don't get their way on a particular issue, everything they hold dear will cease to exist.  It's almost as if they're living in a house of cards.  One poorly placed card, or an unfortunate sneeze on the part of an onlooker, and everything will come crashing down.

I do not think that the Christian faith is so fragile.  However, I believe this precisely because I trust God to maintain the Church.  The Church of the future may not look like the Church of today--indeed, I hope that it doesn't!  But I trust that God will provide whatever is necessary for the Church to survive.

Perhaps that sounds a bit complacent.  If that is indeed my attitude, then I ask for forgiveness.   I need reminders that the Church needs God's provision in order to survive.  Prayers like this are important, and I do not wish to dismiss them, even if I don't agree with those who make the Church's survival sound as fragile as a house of cards. 

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