Yesterday we attended the ordination of our nephew at Grace Cathedral. I have not been at Grace for a long time and it is a marvelous place. Our nephew completed seminary and was ordained a deacon yesterday with the expectation that he will become a priest in about six months. He has a position in Jacksonville, Fla. As part of the service the President of the Episcopal Foundation gave a homily off the following gospel (according to Mark 8:34-38):
34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.
36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.
As a part of the his homily he argued that being a priest in these "Post-modern (Postmodernism is a range of conceptual frameworks and ideologies that are defined in opposition to those commonly associated with ideologies of modernity and modernist notions of knowledge and science,such as formalism,materialism,metaphysics,positivism, realism,reductionism, and structuralism. ) and "Post-Christian" times is tougher than it once was. I've always thought the term post-modern to be as Wikipedia defines it - a silly bit of muddled thinking. Just what is post modern? Is it antiquated? Does modernity or change happen in one direction? And what about being a post Christian?
What bothered me about the discussion was that besides the sloppy thinking - it clearly had only occasional acquaintance with the passage he was explaining. It is hard to think of a time when Christianity was the dominant force. Certainly there have been times when parts of the world had a larger share of Christians than they do today. But fundamentally the notion that living a Christian life has been easier in other times is just plain nonsense. The challenges that are presented in the passage are both universal and timeless. Mark's challenge in the passage is that it is hard work to live up to the ideals set by Jesus. That was true in Christ's time; it was true in the modern period (whenever that was) and it will be true in the future.