THE PASTOR’S PAGE January 2022
In 1934, the great poet T.S. Eliot wrote the play, The Rock. It was performed as a pageant to raise funds for building of new churches throughout London. If you remember your history, it was a time of great upheaval. Eliot had the temerity to speak up and speak out against fascism and communism. While it looked as though the Church was dying and becoming an afterthought, Eliot wrote about humanity’s relationship to God. He understood the battles that every generation fights to hold onto faith or risk losing it altogether.
The entire text of The Rock covers twenty-pages. I encourage you to take the time to read over those words as they are not just beautiful, especially in their context, but they speak to our times. You may find the entire text here: www.arak29.am/PDF_PPT/6-Literature/Eliot/ Chtherock_eng.htm.
In the opening stanza, T.S. Eliot writes:
The Eagle soars in the summit of Heaven, The Hunter with his dogs pursues his circuit. О perpetual revolution of configured stars,
О perpetual recurrence of determined seasons,
О world of spring and autumn, birth and dying! The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness; Knowledge of speech, but not of silence; Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance, All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to GOD. Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
Bring us farther from GOD and nearer to the Dust.
Here, Eliot acknowledges that so much of what the world pursuits is ultimately worthless. From a worldly perspective, we may be pursuing and creating much, but that which we gain is ultimately meaningless. Ultimately, we may know more words, but not the Word. What we gain only proves our ignorance and adds nothing to our lives. Instead of gain, we are at a great loss. We move farther from God and lose our lives.
That’s why I cling to the great motto of the Reformation: Semper Reformanda—always reforming! The phrase stood for “the Church reformed, always reforming” and was to remind each generation to discover, hold onto, and pass along the great doctrines of the faith. Each generation of believers hold the opportunity to keep the faith pure and holy or let it slip out of their hands. Whatever a genera- tion of believers receives from the previous ones, it has within its grasp to restore the faith in its lifetime and to provide a better foundation for the generation to come.
In The Rock, Eliot knew that the Church could slip away in his generation, but he had faith in the opportunities that were right before him and all the faithful of his day as well. Whatever challenges confronted them, Eliot believed that faith could overcome. He also knew the cost. Reforming the Church is persistent work and tiring as believers must fight the currents of the world. There are many in the Church in every generation who would rather drift with fleshly desire than to be sanctified and to stand with God. It’s easier to give into the world than to mortify the flesh and to allow the Holy Spirit to guide you into deeper faith and greater works [Romans 8:13].
In the close of The Rock, Eliot acknowledges the challenges alongside the ultimate reward for the faithful:
In our rhythm of earthly life we tire of light. We are glad
when the day ends, when the play ends; and ecstasy is too much pain.
We are children quickly tired: children who are up in the night
and fall asleep as the rocket is fired; and the day is long for work or play.
We tire of distraction or concentration, we sleep and are glad to sleep,
Controlled by the rhythm of blood and the day and the night and the seasons.
And we must extinguish the candle, put out the light and relight it;
Forever must quench, forever relight the flame. Therefore we thank Thee for our little light, that is dap- pled with shadow.
We thank Thee who hast moved us to building, to find- ing, to forming at the ends of our fingers and beams of our eyes.
And when we have built an altar to the Invisible Light, we may
set thereon the little lights for which our bodily vision is made.
And we thank Thee that darkness reminds us of light. О Light Invisible, we give Thee thanks for Thy great glory!
Each year, I ask you to go on a journey with me to read through the Bible this year. In this newsletter, you will find a reading plan. Utilize it, or find a plan that better suits you. But please, dear friend, take that journey through the Word. Along with Eliot, we know what it means to tire in our labors for the right and the good. We desire rest and sleep when we should stand awake (see Matthew 24:36-25:13).
I hope that you rekindle a light in 2022 for the LORD. I pray that light causes you to rebuild the Church and begin to do so by (re)committing to building up the fellowship here at St. John’s. In the beginning of 2022, our sermons will center on spiritual gifts. God, by His grace, has given each believer spiritual gifts to strengthen the local church and to help us share our faith with others, which strength- ens the Church.
The big C Church refers to the body of Christ alive and active throughout the world and through the generations.
The little c church refers to a local gathering. As we dis- cover our spiritual gifts and employ them, we build an altar to the Invisible Light as Eliot put it. Upon that altar, we set our little lights. Together, those lights combine to bring glory to God and to advance His work in the world.
I hope and pray that 2022 is a year in which the light of Christ is rekindled in His people here, and we shine
brightly with heavenly light as St. John’s Evangelical Church embarks upon a season of renewal and revitaliza- tion. I am encouraged to pastor here amongst. I look forwarding to helping you steward your spiritual gifts as God’s church thrives. Like T.S. Eliot, I understand the threats to our survival and growth. Also like Eliot, I have faith in people who are committed to God above all else. Such faith is greater than any faith. After all the fascists and the communists that threatened the Church in the 20th century rose and fell just as those who stand against the Church today will fall away.
In 2022, stand with the LORD. He will never fail you. His Truth will give you life and help you thrive until you meet Him face to face.
Standing on the Rock and in the Word,