Have you ever encountered an evangelical . . . owner of a new car? By “evangelical,” I do not for the moment have in mind a Christian evangelical, but rather a person with a very positive attitude about a personal experience—and they want to talk about it. “Oh man! You just gotta drive this. The torque, the control, these seats. And you have not heard sound—Beethoven never heard Beethoven—like you hear in here. Try it. You gotta get one.” Now that’s an evangelical! Have you never been evangelical?
Let us turn to the city of Corinth, A.D. 50. What news? Bad news. The church of Christ has been behaving badly from the beginning. There is a good news side to this bad news, however. The fact that we tell the story that then and now and throughout history, our churches have failed to grasp their purpose proves that some ships have been righted from grave wrongs and sailed on after the storms, guarding their treasures and handing them on for the living. That, and only that, is what is worthy in a tradition.
My mother, of blessed memory, remarked for years on a vexing boldness in her once tiny third son, myself: at two or three years of age, before he knew anything of swimming, this little boy so loved the waters where we summered that he would walk right off the end of the wooden dock and plunge in over his head, apparently unaware or unconcerned that he would shortly need to be saved. And then would do it again, and even again. The act is recorded on home movies! Now, it might occur to some of you that he is telling this story because he has gone and done it again: plunged into the ecclesiastical waters down by The Riverside Church, apparently unaware that he might need to be saved—again!