Jesus cuts to the heart of our natural theology. As long as things are going well, we think we need no improvement. When things go poorly, we wonder what needs to change so we can get back to our comfort level. For instance, financial problems at church often lead to someone stating, “We need to get more new members. We need to get our inactives back to church.” Absolutely we must be seeking the lost and wandering. It should be our hearts’ desire at ALL times for more people to join us around the Lord’s Altar – but these statements would carry a lot more weight if said also when things are going well at church. When things are going poorly, those not attending are seen as the fix to our financial difficulties. Until we find a way to get back to financial ease.
Luther nailed this “natural theology of good and bad times” in paragraphs 5-10 of his commentary on the First Commandment, which was Tuesday’s Writing from TDP. (If you don’t have Treasury of Daily Prayer, click on the link.)
Take that onto a societal level, and you have people saying it makes sense that horrible Katrina happened in New Orleans – that is such a terrible, sinful city. But the same people would be shocked if such tragedy happened in middle America. (Pastor Brown writes a little bit about that today in this excellent post about America being a not so Christian nation.)
Jesus reminds us that each and every one of us deserves to have Katrina-like tragedy slam down on us in today’s reading from Luke 13:1-5. Remember, repentance is different than regret. Regret is, “I’m sorry I got caught with my hand in the cookie jar. I won’t do it (that way) again.” Repentance is, “I should never have thought about putting my hand in the cookie jar.” Make sure to read today’s Writing selection from paragraphs 7-10 of the Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord.