The enemies of the church have effectively wielded the weapon of irreverent mockery. Pop culture has relentlessly pilloried sacred things as objects of scorn for decades. Sit-coms make dads the butt of every joke. Late-night comedians guffaw over puritanical sexual ethics. These modern court jesters mocked sacred things, with no reverence shown whatsoever.
But their irreverent jokes landed because the church made a mockery of these things first. We disdained holy things, and treated them as common. We showed up in our Sunday best, after Friday nights of drunkenness under the guise of Christian liberty. We sang the songs of Zion, while our eyes were scanning the saints with lust, or envy, or pride. We made a joke out of these holy things, long before Pixar Studios did. When the saints gather in God’s house with a breezy & casual air––coming as if for entertainment, for making business connections, for hooking up, for presenting ourselves as respectable citizens––we tell the world a profane joke.
Of course, at the same time this was happening the world introduced new “sacred spaces” which aren’t to be scorned. You must speak with hushed & reverent tones about women’s rights, racial equality, the universal right to healthcare, how US fossil fuel (and US fossil fuel alone) will destroy our planet, man descended from primordial goo. The church’s sacrilege of these heavenly courts has led to a sanctifying of the courts of fornication, greed, a blood-shed.
Which is why you must not forsake the assembly of the saints. But what you must forsake is coming here as a joke. You must sanctify the Lord, in your heart. You must do as you just said a moment ago you were going to do, and lift up your heart in true joyful faith to the God who redeemed you.
We’ve treated our King’s courts like an ordinary occasion. We’ve mouthed the words, we’ve played the part, we’ve mimed the motions, all with our fingers crossed behind our back. Our sin we’ve sanctified, while God’s glory we’ve spurned. In many ways we have reverenced the glory of man, the majesty of man’s kingdoms, the splendor of man’s exploits; while on the other hand we haven’t marveled at the Savior which sought us and bought us. We’ve knelt before Nebuchadnezzar, instead of standing up to him. But God sees the inward motions of our hearts, He sees our motives for coming into His courts, and He sees when our heart is far from Him even as we lip-sync the right words.
But the potency of the Gospel is that it mocks all forms of self-righteousness. The Gospel flips all such sacrilege on its head. Instead of mocking true righteousness, it mocks all our feeble attempts to sanctify our sin and folly. The Gospel, then, makes a joke of all our hypocrisy. It tells miserable sinners, that they have been made clean by the Savior. This Good News is worth the deepest belly laugh of all.