I realize that the concept of “the remnant” is biblical, but it still reminds me of a bit of cast off cloth, a “second” one may find in outdoor markets. Thus when I read of traditionalists as being a faithful remnant, I understand the OT allusion, but I am left feeling rather rejected. I wonder whether it is even an appropriate metaphor for those of us who can recite the Creeds without crossing our fingers, who believe in miracles and are not quite sure about “progressive revelation.”

Being not quite sure about doctrinal development doesn’t at all mean a belief that God has spoken once, long ago, and now has retreated to watch what happens. That’s the god of the Deist. It doesn’t mean that one denies that the revelation which is in Christ Jesus doesn’t speak to us in what seem to be new ways, or in new contexts, although we should be reminded that the “newness” isn’t novelty and probably isn’t new at all. It’s a modern conceit to think that we invent new religious concepts just because we come up with new ways to get from A to B. In vital matters it is probably true that there’s nothing new under the sun. What is “new” is the translation and perhaps the context in which we “hear” the Word of God, often through the Word of God written. Jesus is the final Revelation. Jesus lives and his Gospel lives in the power of the Trinity. Now that is living!

Back to the remnant. It seems to me that there are two assurances given to Christians and those two assurances were lived into by the first Christians. The first assurance seems masochistical. Being a Christian will get you hurt! The hurt may be from an external source, it may be the result of our seeking to live as Christians, and it may be the result of our not succeeding in living as Christians. Cross-bearing hurts. That’s a difficult concept to embrace in a culture in which “hurt” and “pain” are railed against and resented. The blogs of liberals and conservatives are full of stuff about people being hurt, being given pain, by this or that action, or declaration. I do not deny that people are hurt, do get pained, by words and actions, some just and some manifestly unjust. Yet our American pains and hurt, for the most part are nothing like those experienced across the globe in other places by millions who starve, suffer and die, in war, famine, flood, as the result of disease, economic injustice, cruelty and human malice. In our affluent Episcopalianism, most of our hurt and pain is experienced in comfort and we can take pills and even pray because we can afford so to do.

Law suits and discrimination hurt, but they are not excuses for us to behave as pagans!

Now I am not here addressing the real torments of psychological or physical pain, although here too, at least the medically insured experience their torments in the context of available help and nurture. True in this manifestly unjust society of ours, many fall through the cracks and we cannot rest, as Christians until this great wrong is made right.

The Christian journey does hurt. Jesus told us that if we want to follow him we must embrace the cross, give up much which cushions life from reality and walk hand in hand with him through the valley of the shadow. Certainly the first Christians heard the story of Jesus and the comments of the Epistle-writers in the context of persecution, fear and peril. Yet this growing “remnant” had another assurance we often forget. The victory has been won for us. On the Cross Jesus won the ultimate victory. Our task as Christians is not to fight a war to win, but announce the victory and its fruits. Perhaps “Onward Christian Soldiers” should read, “Onward Christian witnesses, marching on to speak.”

Whenever Christians are driven to believe that their task is to fight to preserve and protect something or other, however right, holy or splendid that “something” is, a psychological change occurs. We come to believe that our job is to win the battle against the enemy instead of risking carrying the news of victory into enemy territory. It is true that being the messenger of victory is a dangerous business, can get us into all sorts of trouble, even unto death, but it is a very different calling than that of fighting a war to protect the faith. Fighting to protect includes the concept of losing. Telling the story of Calvary involves no possibility of losing, other than losing the argument temporarily, losing acceptance,losing respectibility or still in some places losing one’s life. Yet Calvary and the Empty Tomb cannot be “lost”. They constitute the greatest victory ever won, no less than the liberation and restoration of all things in heaven and on earth; the promise of newness in both. Talk about a new revelation.

Again the problem with fighting to protect something or other is that it is possible that the glory of what we seek to protect dims into banal color and the protecting thing becomes an idol or a fetish. There’s enormous depth in our Lord’s comment that if we seek to save our lives we will lose them.

In this light I remain unhappy to be described as a remnant. I prefer to think of mere Christians as the leaven, the yeast, the ingredient injected into church and society which transforms and creates. Yes, there’s newness in the process, but it is a very old newness. It’s difficult to accept this truth when we have wrapped our cause or campaign, our “progressiveness” or “orthodoxy” in a blanket and are rushing away to where?, so that we can continue to defend and protect our possession . Don’t unwrap the blanket. You may not like what is now there.

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