Monday, June 27, 2011

Banging on an Empty Barrel

I suffer a bit of distress since returning to my home ward.  For more than six years I met for church at the local juvenile detention center.  There,
 "... we talk(ed) of Christ, we rejoice(ed) in Christ, we preach(ed) of Christ, we prophesy(ed) of Christ, and we wr(o)te according to our prophecies, that (we and those) children (might) know to what source (we might) look for a remission of (our) sins."  (See 2 Nephi 25:26)
There we centered all of our teaching around that one central theme.  If we spoke of the pioneers, it was an opportunity to show them how the Savior and His Atonement enabled them to deal with and overcome great hardship.  If we spoke of captivity, bondage and addiction, it was to show them how Christ and His Infinite Sacrifice made it possible for us to obtain freedom.  If we spoke about our personal relationships with others, we were able to show them how our Perfect Brother stands between us and our offender, having already paid the price of his transgression, asking us to forgive and quit seeking revenge.  If we spoke of joy it was underlaid with rejoicing that Christ is the giver of joy.  If we spoke of choices we spoke of He who provided that liberty to us, and He who allows us to recover from the poor choices we inevitably will make.  If we spoke of love, we spoke of the Source and Epitome of love.  If we spoke of fear, we comforted the fearful by testifying of the One they could always trust.  If we spoke of sorrow, we spoke of He who suffered each of our sorrows.  If we spoke of pain, we spoke of He who suffered each of our pains.  If we spoke of prayer, we spoke of He who bears our pleas and expressions of gratitude to the throne of God.  If we spoke of food, or volleyball, or music, or rain, we spoke of He who provides all good gifts in this wonderful world and who gives us the strength and light to enjoy them. 

In our ward we don't seem to do that, much.  My heart longs to hear of Christ, to rejoice in the Atonement that has set me free.  Most of the time, instead I hear nice talks and lessons that are dressed up like pretty barrels.  Barrels that speak wonderful words on topics of leadership, commitment, covenants, honesty, work for our kindred dead, charity, food storage and on and on.  If these subjects are addressed without the application of the Atonement of Christ, to me, they sound like someone banging on an empty barrel.  Every barrel (or subject) we present to the Latter-day Saints, ought to be filled with the Atonement of Christ.  Otherwise, to me, the treatment seems empty, hollow, echoing of the conspicuous absence of He, upon whom all our obligations, possibilities, opportunities, abilities, hopes, dreams and promises lie. 

There is no topic, in Heaven or Earth that ought to be addressed absent that most magnificent, universal, infinite Gift, or the majestic, sweet Giver.  Doing otherwise, to me, seems to presume to take too much credit and expectation upon ourselves, who too often forget our own nothingness before Him.  If we ever amount to anything, it will only be because of Him.

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