Monday, September 10, 2012

September 10 - Petr Chelčický, Prophet, Reformer


Petr Chelčický (hel-chits-kee) was known for a prophetic voice. Like other prophets, Petr would be threatened and attacked because he refused to deny uncomfortable truth. After all, one thing the Empire has no use for is a prophet and a truth-speaker--prophets don't know how to behave or respect the power and control that the Empire exercises and demands. Prophets follow after a different power than the Empire and speak a truth that often challenges the Empire. They cannot be tolerated by the Empire.

Petr was above all things, a man seeking the reformation of the Church he loved. Having seen some of its failures and glimpsed its potential and calling, Petr could not and would not settle for anything less than the Body of Christ and Church Triumphant. In contrast, Petr could see the Net of Faith--the means by which the people of the world were brought into the ark of the Church--being torn into shreds by the corroboration of the Church with the State. Petr described the net being torn apart by two "whales" that represented the outcome of the affiliation of State with Church and vice-versa. This was not an attack upon the Church but, rather, an attack upon any part of the Church that had abandoned the Gospel and the Kingdom of God for the story and kingdom of the world.

Though parts of the Church had tried to bring the State within the reign of the Church they had failed to realize that you cannot baptize the State. Therefore, it cannot enter through the same baptismal waters that give birth to all Christians. In the Church, we do not baptize ideas, or groups, or causes because baptism is only fit for those who follow after a crucified Lord. Some had hoped to Christianize the Empire but ended up imperializing the Church. Petr cried out loudly to the people that the Empire cannot save people. It cannot redeem people. It controls people. It executes those who resist it. The only route to salvation and redemption is through the humble gate of death that leads into life. Petr hoped to expose something essential: the difference between the Gospel and the gospel of the Empire.

Petr did not advocate anarchy but cared little for politics. He did not understand his calling to be that of a political reformer but, rather, as a reformer of the Church. He knew that the State had its place in the world and that it did many things that were beneficial but his earnest fear was that in the State's adoption of Christianity, the Church had adopted the values and gospel of the State. This was unacceptable. This was abominable. The Empire was not to be resisted with violence. There was to be no revolution that installed a new ruler because Christians were already called to serve a different ruler: Jesus. Instead, Petr's call to the people of his day and the people of our day is the same: follow the one you are committed to and don't get that one confused with any other.

Petr would be largely unknown for many years until he was picked up in the teachings and emphases of peoples like the Moravians, Quakers, Anabaptists, and Baptists. Not only do we not know where or how Petr died but we only vaguely know when he died. He was largely overlooked and disregarded in his time because of the power of what he spoke--the power of his demands for the Church. But, being ignored and rejected is the way of many prophets. For Petr, it was not his goal to be known or influential but, rather, to share the message he had for the Church so that the Net of Faith might be mended and the redeeming work of the Church could continue boldly and effectively.

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