Monday, December 21, 2015

Builders and Steady-ers

Steadying the Ark.
Nobody gets away in this church without a faith crisis. Sometimes a person is prepared for it, sometimes they are not. But whatever our preparations, a faith crisis can still be, well a crisis. We can all need time to work things out. That is okay.

As members that deal with questions, however, there are two kinds of people that come to mind. The first one is the steady-ers.

Poor Uzzah. It is such a bizarre story. Israel is marching back home with the Ark of the Covenant. There is something like an Israelite marching band going before them, like a parade, playing harps and cymbals and "all manner of instruments made of fir wood."  Some primitive wooden tuba comes to my mind. And then the ox stumbles, it looks like the ark is going to fall, and Uzzah, maybe just instinctively, reaches out his hand to steady the ark. Bam. He's struck dead. The wooden tuba players and harpists fall quiet.

It is unfair. He was just trying to help! What was the big deal? The lesson given in Sunday School is that God is in charge of that ark, he had angels and power and whatever else to look after his own ark of the covenant, and he didn't need Uzzah's hand to steady it. Perhaps he wanted to remind his people of who was in charge here. But it is clear that steadying the ark is not a good idea.

In modern day revelation, God warns that the "man...that putteth forth his hand to steady the ark of God shall fall by the shaft of death, like as a tree that is smitten by the vivid shaft of lightning" (D&C 85:8) Harsh stuff. Spiritual death. Don't do it. And tragically, like the tree's branches, often children lose out because of a parent's choices.

Today there are a lot of steady-ers. They seem to live in a state of constant angst about the state of this Church. Apostle so-and-so said this terrible thing. Our church created a potentially harmful policy. In a church full of imperfect people, there is always something to be troubled about, and with social media, there is always a bandwagon for the latest outrage. Perhaps the steady-ers are justified in their concern; after all, church leaders can make mistakes. (They say so. Like here. And here.) And like the stumbling ox, it can actually look like this Church is going to fall, especially when gazed at from the narrow perspectives offered by critics. 

It would be well to remember who is in charge of this Church, the "ark of the covenant." We must remember who it is that ultimately guides this institution--divinely led in spite of its entourage of flawed people. We can remember the promise that his Kingdom cannot fail in preparation for Christ's second coming. If you don't know that is for sure, you can find out. It will take, as any convert to the Church knows, a lot of humility and prayer, time, and the giving up of some of your opinions and beliefs. But you can know. And then you can be reminded again by the Holy Ghost. Because we all need reminding.

Many who still love this church may worry the whole thing is going to flop. But it won't. And we will criticize and steady ourselves right out of the church and into the great and spacious building if we aren't careful. And like Uzzah found out, unless we repent and come back, we will be spiritually cut off.

Because frankly, God does not need your steadying hand, or your warning voice to criticize his anointed. But he does need you. All of you. He needs you to be a laborer in the vineyard, a good and faithful servant, and a builder of Zion. That's type two--the builders.

Building is a lot more work than steadying. It takes more than just an occasional hand or critical word when some leader may or may not have made a mistake. It takes all you have, all you are, all the time. It requires the wearisome toil involved in well-doing, and in "laying the foundation of a great work" because "out of small things proceedeth that which is great" (D&C 64:33) Even if that work is dragging your screaming toddler to church, or setting up a home teaching appointment, or accepting a calling to do the dumb ward bulletin of all things. It takes weekday effort, too, like being kind to people you would rather not be kind to. Like avoiding the busyness and distraction of a world flinging itself mightily into crazyland, and opening your scriptures and actually seeking for God's word. Then do it again. Every day. It means focusing on the sacrament, remembering the death of a Savior who loved you, and who lays out his body and blood at the sacrament table every Sunday for you, whether you accept it or not. It takes remembering and keeping solemn covenants you have made to be a builder, even if you'd rather not.

Building can mean being the change you wish to see in the Church. And then again, building can mean not just being the change, but humbly being the change. It means giving of yourself without any fanfare or criticism even if others don't catch on right away. It is all that tough, nitty-gritty, humbling and grueling stuff that true discipleship is made of.

Anyone can see the problems in the church. There are plenty. The bride is not yet ready for the bridegroom. We know that already. But she is getting there, steady as she goes. So let's leave the steadying to the Lord and build. Let's build together.

1 comment:

  1. I think you wrote this for me! Haha I've read this at least 20 times.