Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Enough... sufficient... for now
There is a constant struggle in our church between those who uphold doctrine and those who pursue mission. It is as if we have come to believe that our church is incapable of more than one focus, cannot balance liturgy and mission, doctrine and outreach. We have been told this so long that most of us actually believe it. Those who advocate for doctrine and liturgy speak as if our limited attention span should be solely focused on keeping faith with the tradition instead of missional paradigms of outreach. Those who advocate for outreach and mission speak as if keeping faith with our Confessions and worshiping as Lutherans are mere distractions from the larger cause of telling people about Jesus.
In fact, that was the tack taken by those sought, unsuccessfully I believe, to frame the election of the Synodical President. Harrison was seen as the candidate for those who love liturgy and doctrine and Maier the candidate for those who want the church to grow. It is as if the person who occupies the office of Synod President has the same one track mind as our church body. So we have lists for other offices in the church that practically say the same thing. The United List is for those who think the most important thing in the Church is NOT to change and the Missional List is for those who think that the most important thing in the Church is TO change with both insisting that the other side is the kiss of death for Lutheranism.
Hermann Sasse wrote in 1934 that Of those time in which the life of the church was not very much disturbed by concern for pure teaching and by alarm concerning false teaching, it may be said that they do not belong to the great ages of the church. On the contrary, the church is always in danger of dying when it ceases to wrestle with the truth and to pray that the Lord may guard it against the devil's wiles and false teachings. (Here We Stand, p. 90)
The great ages of Christianity are not characterized by a choice. They are marked by a passionate pursuit of truth as well as a passionate desire to share this truth. It is precisely because we take the truth seriously that we are interested in sharing the truth. Otherwise, it is merely the pursuit of numbers, of earthly success, of kingdom building, instead of about the Gospel. There is something inherently wrong when we believe that the church must chose between one or the other pursuits. A dying church chooses. A living church embraces the truth with such passion that this church cannot settle for anything less than the full truth, pure doctrine, and faithful worship. A living church embraces this faithfulness not as an aesthetic but as the practical and working purpose of being the church. The church is not an idea. The church is not a goal. She is a living entity whose life is derived from and serves the truth which is Jesus Christ. I, for one, refuse to use "it" to refer to the church. The church is a she. We can afford to be cold and indifferent to doctrine and to mission as long the church is simply an "it." But we can afford no such thing for the Bride of Christ. She deserves our full attention to the truth that is her life and she deserves our full attention to the cause for which she exists. She does not have a one track mind.
My problem is that too often we sell the Church short. We presume that she is so weak and fragile that at best she can handle only one thing at a time. We are so sure that it is a matter of which thing is chosen that will determine her fate. We sell our leaders short as well. We presume that every choice is a choice between those who know the truth and those who know how to speak it. As long as we believe this and act this way, no amount of koinonia will unite us and we will die in possession of the Truth that we have shared with no one or we will die because we share everything and anything but the one thing worth nothing less than purity and faithfulness.
Just a few thoughts while waiting to head to St. Louis...