Of course, this sense of exile has not been the burden of Christians in the West for some time. The West was built by the Christian faith of Christian men and women. The Christian faith dwelt in the hearts, hearths, and homes of the West. This was so true that they often refer to that past West as “Christendom.” This Christendom was never a utopia but it was a place where Christian beliefs and mores could be found in wide acceptance. Christ was seen as the Redeemer and Savior of His people. God’s law was seen as the standard, not only for personal ethics but also for the ethics that was enshrined into the laws and institutions of the West. Confessing Christ was seen as necessary and required for holding different political offices. Being Christians Mothers and Fathers, raising a Christian family, giving the children, who would eventually arrive, a Christian education was seen as the goal of every newlywed young Christian man and wife upon the completion of their Christian Wedding. The Christian Church with its Christian worldview echoing from the pulpit, and ensconced in a myriad of weekly publications was the predominant molder and shaper of the culture.
Exile was not a familiar theme.
That time has gone into eclipse and now we must reckon with the fact that we live, as the congregation did in the book of Hebrews, as Exiles.
AM Sermon Charlotte CRC
IV.) Well how shall we successfully live as Exiles in this Brave New World
A.) First, we realize that our status as exiles has no need to be the only theme among Christians. There is currently a theology in the Reformed Church in existence that wants to absolutize the theme of exile so that any suggestion of building successful Christian culture is seen as Triumphalism or as a dastardly theology of glory. We understand because of our own antinomian unfaithfulness we are living in an age of Exile but there is no reason to absolutize this Exile as if it is the norm for all times and places. Scripture speaks repeatedly of the Triumph of Christ in time and space. The Kingdoms of this world are shattered by the rock-cut out of the Mountain that rolls over the Kingdom statue. The Knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. The Kingdom of heaven leavens all. The mustard seed of Christianity becomes a great tree in which all the Nations (Birds) find refuge.
There is something altogether unseemly in a theology that says “we’ve always lost, we are losing now, and we will only ever lose, though spiritually speaking that losing is really winning. If we want to be faithful we have to see ourselves as perpetual exiles in every generation.”Continuing on with addressing how to successfully live as Exiles …
B.) Church and Worship
1.) For Exiles Church and Worship become a haven where identity is reinforced.
I’m convinced that this is one reason why the author to the Hebrews can tell this congregation of Exiles to,
23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
As Exiles, a way to maintain our identity and also a way to continue to fight is to have our identity reinforced in the gathering of the saints for Worship. In worship, we walk out of the liturgies of the world which would shape us consistent with the belief systems of the zeitgeist and we walk into the liturgy of the Church where the centrality of Word and Sacrament permeates the whole of the rest of the liturgy.
In our worship, the Word informs the Liturgy and during the dance of worship our identity in Christ is underscored and so we rejoice at being Exiles for and in Christ. In the Word, Christ is championed as being the great reconciler between God and man and in whom we find a peace with God that the zeitgeist can never offer. In the word, Christ is our great liege Lord to whom all our loyalty gladly belongs. In the Word, Christ is seen as the one in whom are hidden all the treasuries of wisdom and knowledge which reminds us of the zeitgeist follies we walked out of in order to enter the sanctuary.
So important is Worship that Dr. Pieter Leithart can ask and then answer his own question by observing,
“Christians in the US are entering a period of crisis that will lead to martyrdom… How do we prepare? Not by military exercises or organizing militias. We prepare by learning to use finger weapons, not hand weapons, which is to say, by learning to battle with musical instruments. We prepare by training our bodies as musical instruments, by learning to sing lustily, especially by learning to sing God’s songs.”
Now, I would never contend that Worship is the only means of living successfully as Exiles but I would contend that it is one of the means of resistance. Via Biblical Worship, we are washed of the foul false word and liturgies of the zeitgeist and we are re-oriented by the Word and Sacrament as they inform our Liturgy and so we are able to once again find ourselves rooted and grounded in Christ. This simple but beautiful Worship where the Word saturated Liturgy finds us Welcomed by the God who reminds us of His law every week. This Liturgy whereupon the hearing of God’s law God’s people confess their sin and then find comfort in God’s absolution of their sin and the turning away of His judgment because of the finished work of Christ. Then because of this pronounced absolution, God’s people are reminded of their resurrection in Christ. This liturgy where God speaks to His people through the voice of His spokesman who brings to God’s people from the Holy desk both the harmony and disharmony of Law and Gospel.
C.) And then out of that worship we fight
The Dutch theologian Kuyper could say here,
“When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith.”
We wrestle against principalities and powers. We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. We put on the whole armor of God. We study to show ourselves approved, workmen who needeth not to be ashamed. We are ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us. As Exiles, we are witnesses to the Nations until the Nations are converted to Christ.