Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Garrison Keillor loves to talk about Lutheran humility and our fear of being in the spot light. Part of our Lutheran angst is doing anything different from what everyone else is doing. If we are around other Lutherans it is okay but as soon as a non-Lutheran asks us about it, we get all flustered and bothered that somehow we might be "different." I was reminded by a person from Minnesota (near Mankato - a city of what, 40,000 in which there are Lutheran congregations belonging to seven or more jurisdictions) that when a person there does not like something they say "That's different." Well, we must take that to heart and figure if it's different, it must be bad and we should change it.
I guess packing up and moving across and ocean (for religious or economic reasons) means we are a little self-conscious. Maybe it is more than that. I do not know. But if something is Lutheran, it is not necessarily bad. We do not have to look or act or sound like every generic Protestant in order to feel good about who we are. (You noticed I wrote "Protestant" -- we never want to be confused with the Roman Catholics -- that is a "different" we definitely have an aversion to...)
We have so many things to be proud of -- we should not be self-conscious or ashamed. We have a great Confessional Identity, we have a great book of confessions, we have a history of great preaching, schools, education, music, and hymnody... We have a big Lutheran social service organization that does many, many good things with very little fanfare. We have a huge Lutheran world relief organization that spends precious little on fund-raising and nearly every dime goes to providing help to people all over the world -- and in Haiti right now...
If there is one thing I love about Lutherans, it is this institutional humility but if there is one thing I would like to change it is this aversion to being different from everyone else. We should give up just a bit of that humility to talk about who we are, what we believe, why we believe it, how we worship, what contributions we have made to music, what we do for the poor and those in need... not as a boast to make us feel better but because these are good things, inspirational works that remind us of the difference made every day because of Lutheran people, living out their baptismal identity, within the framework of Lutheran congregations and ministries, here, there and everywhere.
I am amazed by the long train of Lutherans and those who went before me continue to inspire and move me... Muhlenberg to Loehe among others. I am proud of the fine music that serves the Word and speaks the Gospel in so many ways. I am here because of those people -- famous and anonymous -- and I bet you are too. So I sing a Te Deum for Lutherans!