Monday, February 20, 2017

All in . . .

I don't play much poker, well, I don't play it at all.  Every now and then I watch the pros play poker on TV.  I realize it is not for real money -- the consequences are too high.  But it does put the game into perspective. Whenever you watch poker on TV, chances are it’s a no-limit Hold'em game.  That just means that there is no ceiling on the amount you can bet.  If you are bold enough, you may just push all your chips into the center of the table and go "all in."  All in means you hold nothing in reserve.  You have not hedged your bet.  You have taken the ultimate risk with all your resources.

The move is a game changer.  If made the wrong choice, you have lost everything.  If you are bluffing, then you really do have nerves of steel.  If you have surveyed the competition and know your hand, you have probably already won.

Once you are all in, there is no going back.  It is too late to decide that maybe another player had a better hand than you thought or there were too many cards missing to have brought the game to a quick end.  As Kenny Rogers sang, you got know when to hold em and know when to fold em. . . .

When you teach children the faith, you do not teach them to hedge their bets.  You teach them an all in faith -- Jesus Christ alone has salvation and there is no other.  You teach them that God hears their prayers and they can always pray.  You teach them God is the glue that holds everything together.  You teach them they are not accidents of nature but fearfully and wonderfully made.  You teach them that God forgives every repentant sinner -- no matter how far they have fallen.  You teach them that death is not the end and heaven is real.  The problem is that adults are more likely to hedge their bets and mix their faith with reason, science, and culture.  We have trouble being all in.  We have trouble because we know if you put all your cards on this bet, there is nothing else on which to fall back.

Converts to Lutheranism tend to be all in.  They ask me questions and want to know with Blessed Mary, "how can this be?" but they do not question or challenge what I teach them.  In many respects they are like sponges soaking up water for the first time.  They were not raised Lutheran and they may a choice to become Lutheran and they are not going to Lutheran Lite or half baked Lutherans.  They are determined to be "all in."

Some of the rest of us Lutherans, the lifers who have always been Lutheran for as long as we can remember, are less likely to invest everything in what Lutherans believe, confess, and teach.  We are forever telling people that Lutherans are like ____________ [you fill in the blank with the kind of Protestant you would be if you were not Lutheran!] and above all Lutherans are not Catholic!  Gosh no. . .   Ceremonies, ritual, liturgy, and a sacramentally ordered piety are often deal breakers for us.  We are forever wedded to the kind of Lutheranism we saw in the last or most revered pastor.  Sure, Lutherans can do those things but, well, who would want to?  Lutherans are not scary -- they are normal.  We lifers tend to like the Lutheranism we met growing up (especially in catechism class) and are deeply suspicious of those who suggest that we may not know as much about Lutheranism as we thought,  We may be all in to the version of Lutheranism that we like but we are not so sure we want to know about the Confessions and about anything that might challenge what we think we know about Lutherans.

So we a little excited when a novice Lutheran begins telling us stuff about Lutherans that we did not want to know.  And we think it rude for a Lutheran born on a mission field to presume to tell us that Lutheran Lite is not a legitimate form of Lutheranism.  But most of all, we fear putting too much on stuff we thought was not supposed to be important at all (adiaphora anyone!).  We like moderation and we are suspicious of extremists -- even Lutherans who are too Lutheran!  Let us be reasonable, now.  Let us be moderate.  Let us not get too wound up about anything. 

Worse than converts telling us what Lutherans really believe, confess, and teach, we don't like young pastors, pastors new to the ministry, all in our faces and excited about things we don't think any normal Lutheran should get excited about.  Newfangled Lutheranism is just as questionable as Lutheranism which digs too deep into the soil of our confessions, doctrine, and practice.  We make small bets so that we can afford to lose here and there.  We would never go all in!

But that is precisely what we need -- Lutherans who are all in.  Lutherans who believe that tradition may even be more important than spontaneity.    Lutherans who believe that Sunday morning ought to look more like what we say in our Confessions than what we in the pews find reasonable, comfortable, and normal.  Lutherans who risk it all on the only One worth the risk -- Jesus Christ our Lord.  The world cares little for Lutherans unsure of their Lutheranism.  The world wants to believe that there are true believers out there.  The world is enamored of those who fear God more than death and who are determined to be the Lutherans our books define us to be.

Lutheranism will not be saved by Lutheranism Lite.  Lutheranism will not be reborn by becoming somebody else on Sunday morning.  Lutheranism will not be made relevant by diluting our Lutheran identity, doctrine, and confession.  Lutheranism lives or dies as an all in faith.  Really, if you are not ready to go all in for your Lutheran-ness, why bother?


Anonymous said...

I’ve been a Lutheran all my life and have only recently become convinced of the virtues and necessity of our historic confessions and I am on the verge of leaving my “Lutheran” church of 23 years. It’s like they say, “There is no greater annoyance to a smoker than former smoker” and I am feeling out of place in my church home because our congregation has given into the opinions of man. I formerly lived in blissful heterodoxy but no more. A congregation must answer the question, “Are we more enlightened than the Church Fathers?” My congregation seems to think so. They don’t want to go back to the “dark ages” and misogynistic ways of the past. “We’re beyond that,” they say. We’ve grown and evolved in doctrine and practice because they are fluid and not static. New information is coming in all the time that increases the knowledge base of the postmodern generation. Why go backwards when we’ve made so much progress? Question: How do you fight a mentality like that?

Anonymous said...

"Luther's Small Catechism for all" is the Key to sound doctrine for lay people. Pastor Hoppe's Catechism Prenzi is a very good presentation of this simple yet profound book. Reformation 500 is a excellent time to focus (re-focus?) on the Small Catechism. We are using the "Note-Taking Edition" here in East Tennessee this year so all members will have a written record of what they learned about what we confess in this 500th Anniversary Year.
"lutherancatechism" is an excellent website for resources. Reading Pastor Peter's excellent Blog can help keep your spirit up; search "catechism" on his blog. It is excellent. Don't give up, this is too important. "Stay Calm and study the Catechism" Timothy Carter

ErnestO said...

What Paul once spoke of bonds and afflictions, that they attended him in every place (Acts 20:23), that may all the saints say of Satan's snares—that they attend them in every place; which should cause them to cry out, "Let us go hence, let us go hence!" Ah! souls, until you are taken up into the bosom of Christ, your comforts will not be full,
pure, and constant. Until then, Satan will still be thumping on you, and spreading snares to entangle you! Therefore you should always be crying out with the church,'Come, Lord Jesus!' (Rev. 22:20).