Tuesday, March 27, 2012
The Sacramental Word...
The Word works sacramentally. It emerges from God as the flow of life. When this [Word] reaches the person, God is there -- whether the person wants or recognizes is or not. [For in the same way] a person at the Lord's Table -- totally apart from his or her state of mind or faith -- receives the body and blood of Christ -- either for life or for judgment... God's Word [and Sacraments] require a response -- either a response in faith, gratitude and obedience OR indifference, impenitence, and defiance... If the means of grace have no effect, nothing else will help him/her. Without the Word [and Sacraments, the means of grace] there is no salvation for this suffering world.
This is the very truth that so many Lutherans have forgotten or chosen to ignore. They either believe that God's Word is but a rule book or guide book for creating social justice or imparting a better life here (however they would define it) or else they believe that they must assist the Word by offering gimmicks to lure in the people and to hook them or the Word will have no effect upon the world. One branch of Lutheranism has chosen a guide book for social justice, equating salvation with their version of a better world order. As bad as this is, it is no less evil to abandon confidence in that Word to do its bidding and to replace the Word with a certain kind of music and an entertainment posture that becomes its own focus for the church.
If anything, there seems to be a shortage of those who actually believe what we Lutherans have believed, taught, and confessed -- that the Word of God works sacramentally. It is precisely here that renewal of the Lutheran parish and renewal of the Lutheran brand will come. It will not come by simply going through the motions on Sunday morning while putting the full energy into creating a new social order of justice, equality, and guaranteed rights (as if these replaced forgiveness, life, and salvation). It will not come through borrowing or adapting the successful business and entertainment models so abundantly available from outside Lutheranism and from hiding the confessional and liturgical identity that marks us as Lutheran Christians.
As my friend Pr. Wil Weedon has often said, "perhaps we ought to actually try Lutheranism before we conclude that it just doesn't "work."