“For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord,…”
The world is full of agendas. I have them and so do you. There is a story told about a man who joined a congregation. He was eventually elected to the church council where he beligerently began to push his own ideas about what the church should be about. After a year or so he called on the pastor to announce that he was leaving the congregation. Since he could not get his way, he was moving on.
Over the long centuries many agendas have threatened to overwhelm the essential business of the church. Occasionally they have succeeded, at least temporarily. At times political agendas have dominated. This was especially true during the centuries following the collapse of the Roman empire. The church found itself holding the reigns of political power. The resulting abuses were predictable. At other times, the moral agenda has threatened to replace the Gospel with Law, equating the Christian faith with a list of do’s and don’ts. Today, advocacy of the latest social agenda has become the de facto gospel in many chuches.
Of course, none of this is new. St. Paul found himself, again and again, having to remediate congregations and individuals under his care. His theme was constant; Christ and His cross must be central. Fifteen centuries later, Martin Luther took up the same Gospel cause.
The painter Lucas Cranach was a friend and supporter of Martin Luther and many of his works were in support of Reformation themes. The Cranach painting above is located at St. Mary’s church in Wittenberg, Germany (it is also permanently on the header of my blog). If you look closely, you will see that Cranach has painted the crucified Christ just above the altar table, directly in front of where the preacher stands. He has depicted Martin Luther preaching, with one hand on the Bible and the other pointed toward Jesus Christ crucifed. Cranach is clarifying the agenda and making it clear to those called to preach, and to the congregation, that Jesus Christ is the Church’s agenda and the proper subject of the Church’s preaching.
As long as the church exists in time, God’s people will be tempted to replace God’s agenda with our own. But thanks be to God that He keeps hold of His Church in love and brings us back to Christ, whose agenda is to love sinners and bring them, at last, out of death to life.
“May the peace of Gods that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”