Monday, January 18, 2010

"CLOTTED CALM": Franzmann and Conflict in the Church

The No Inklings Book Club has undertaken to read together Martin Franzmann's fine book FOLLOW ME, a devotion on the book of Matthew. I used this book a decade ago in leading a Bible study at a previous church, and found it poetic and inspiring. A taste:

"Conflict is never pretty and always entails agony; and there are those who hold that in the church all conflict should be avoided at all costs and tranquility should be purchased at any price, and they deem such clotted calm the very peace of God. But the evangelists' account of the contradicted Christ tells us plainly that the church cannot avoid conflict if she be the church of Christ. It tells us that men must take the agony of conflict and bear the brunt of controversy if they are the Christ's. We cluck our disapproval of the bitter controversies of the past and rejoice that such things can no longer happen here. Perhaps our reluctance to face conflict is one of the reasons why we see so puny a Christ and think our God and His kingdom so small."
By "contradicted Christ" Franzmann is referring to a theme he has developed regarding Jesus' powerful responses to men's doubt, rejection, and blasphemy in Chapter 11: his response to the prisoner John the Baptist's questions about him.

This is by no means an easy read. In fact, I find I have to read it in gulps, because it is so densely populated with insights and language that just make me stop and pause. One of my favorite quotes is Franzmann trying to quote Luther, in a way many of us have found ourselves doing:

"'When God begins a thing,' Luther says somewhere, 'it always looks as if nothing will come of it.' He chooses out the least of all nations to be His peculiar people. He makes His Messiah a Servant who goes down in defeat and death. And His kingdom comes as an unspectacular 'stone cut by no human hand,' no match for the bright and splendid and mighty magnitude of the powers of this world. And so His revelation always strikes sparks of contradiction when it comes to man...'"

"Luther says somewhere..." How many times have I heard THAT? I love that Franzmann put it in his book, as if the point he had to make was too intense to stop and actually look up and cite the Luther quote. Not everyone can get away with that. Or, I picture him having looked fruitlessly for the quote, queried his peers about it, been unsuccessful at actually locating it in Luther's works, but still unwilling to give it up. It is such a good quote, and so true.

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