The Preacher Says....  
  The Truth in Paradox  
     
  Charles & Diana - THE wedding of the 20th century was a fascinating bit of theater. Magnificent St. Paulís cathedral was a setting made for royalty. To this day people continue to watch the event on TV re-broadcasts. According to our British guide, Dennis, "the people want it." They love it. They eat it up, not only in the Isles but in America as well. And why so? " Itís a fairy story come to life", according to Dennis, where right prevails and pure thoughts are exalted. Royalty, Defender of the Faith and the nation, is a symbol of perfection and safety; Rule Britannia! Magnificence speaks of power.

Royalty exists in England because the people want it. Yet there is a paradox. It lies in the fact that those who revere and long for its splendor, pomp and circumstance deny the promise of it because it has become a symbol of all that is wrong: persecution of the downtrodden; evils done in the name of the divine right of the king. During this past generation we have witnessed the spiritual downfall of the royal family with various scrapes, disillusionment and divorces. In his recent book, The Abolition of Britain, Christopher Hitchens analyzes the seismic change in the British way of life; family life in shreds, the death of the church and its influence on British morals and education, in ruins. The wedding pageant has become a substitute for religion.

At the ceremony for Charles and Diana the archbishop spoke of the mystical union between Christ and his church, when the marriage supper of the lamb was come, and his wife made herself ready (Rev 19). This wedding is indirectly a literal representation of all the accounts of magnificent splendor in the Bible some symbolic, some literal, of the marriage of Christ and his church . It presents a similar paradox where those who revere and long for the splendor, pomp, and circumstance of the event deny the promise of it. They are unwilling to believe that God will give them what they want: (1) An earth filled with His glory and majesty and power, and (2) a final resolution of mans dilemma, and (3) a kingdom with all the trappings.

One does not need to be very familiar with the Bible to know that the kingdom that God has promised will have pomp & majesty & temples & heavenly choirs. It will be a time when the Lord of Hosts shall make for all His people, as Isaiah says, a feast of fat things, a feast of wine on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees, well refined; a time when the wolf shall dwell with the lamb; and a little child shall lead them (Is 11. 6) ; a time of peace when there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying and the tabernacle of God will be with men. (Rev 21. 3, 4); and the Lord of Hosts shall reign in Mt Zion & in Jerusalem, before his ancients gloriously (Is 24. 23).

If we discipline ourselves today to lead the ascetic life, we will be rewarded with the full life in the future. Surely we see men every day show great self denial for a reward in the future: runners, swimmers, Olympiads of every bent. Truly they are better at it than Christians. Whatever else the parable of the Unjust Steward teaches, we know that the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. ( Luke 16. 8) I can show you examples of self control that would make us pale in comparison.

Are we to be rewarded then for a self discipline that is outstripped by that of our irreligious fellows? Are the children of this world wiser than the children of light (Luke 16. 8)? The Christian life is more than self control. Jesus said, whoever will come after me and deny himself and follow me, that is, lose his life, he shall save it. (Mark 8. 34, 35)

By Godís grace we are forgiven; we do not justify ourselves by our work. We can never justify ourselves, although it seems that we are paradoxically trying to do just that. If we had Godís vision without His wisdom , we would be viewed by Him as no more than maggots on a garbage heap. But God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that we should not perish but have everlasting life.. If we think the way to the kingdom is by faith and works we are wrong. Works and faith alone will never save you. Paul wrote that even though you give your body to be burned and donít have charity (love), you are nothing but a sounding brass or tinkling symbol (Cor 13). This is strong stuff; we need to pay attention to it. We are nothing without love. The end of the commandment is love out of a pure heart, he said to Timothy. And to the church at Thessalonica he prayed that God would direct their hearts into the love of God, for only then will they work for no reward. One is tempted to say that love is not just the most important thing it is the only thing. Deny ourselves and we shall be rewarded.

Love is patient and kind

Love does not envy or boast

Love is not proud, rude, or self seeking seeks not his own way

Love is not easily provoked; keeps no record of wrongs

Love thinks no evil but rejoices in the truth

Love never fails