Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The power of unity. . .

One profound moment at the LCMS Convention revealed the profound power of being on the same page, literally.  After tough words considering the closing of Concordia Selma and the legacy of Rosa Young, the tension in the air was palpable.  Words had been said.  Accusations made.  The 8th Commandment violated or pretty close.  What would happen next?  Chaplain William Weedon ditched most of the printed service to close the session and went into the familiar words of the confession from page 15 or Divine Service Three (depending upon how you remember them).  The people assembled joined in without having to look down for words.  We were not on the same page in our discussion but we were together before the Lord in repentance, confessing our sins, and seeking His forgiveness so that we might begin to forgive one another. 

Diversity is great unless and until a moment like that appears and the call to speak from down deep in the soul summons us beyond our divisions, preferences, and taste.  That, my friends, is the power of the liturgy known and prayed until it is a part of you.  That is the fruit of a common history and a common life together.  It moved us beyond ourselves and past a tense moment.  That is no small thing.

I cannot tell you how many times I have been with a family around a bed side and been told that mom or dad has not opened eyes or spoken for hours or days.  And then come the familiar words.  The Lord be with you.  And the response, buried deep within causes the lips to move.  Whether the creed or the Our Father or the confession and absolution, these words have been carved so deeply into the soul of the person on the edge of consciousness that they become the trigger to awaken them, if only for a while, to the present moment.  That is the power of unity and liturgy.

It was once said that if you went to a Lutheran church anywhere in America, you would encounter the same words on Sunday morning, the same Scripture readings, some of the same hymns, and even, perhaps, the same tunes.  That day has passed and I am not ready to hide in history but I cannot but lament the kind of unity such a common life reflected to the people gathered and to the world watching.  We may not ever get back there, even within our own Synod, but that does not minimize the power of a common life in a common liturgy to bind the diverse into one voice speaking as one body.

Some will laugh at this.  It is no laughing matter.  I wonder what the legacy of diversity will be for our Lutheranism down another age or generation.  Will there ever be a common vocabulary, a common text, and a common tune to draw the diverse together again -- especially in tense and troubled times.  The liturgy with its familiar and repeated language forms us together even more than the will and desire of a people who say they are one.  That is what Chaplain Weedon was able to draw upon in a moment that needed it.  Every parish pastor knows the value of this.  But sometimes we forget the power of unity.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good Morning Pastor,

I was there. It was bad discussion about Selma, but a very good move by pastor Weedon. I could only follow the service he improvised because of God's gift of my faithful pastor and the hymnal. Good post, spot on!

BMC

Anonymous said...

How does the sentiment praising page 15 in this post mesh with the intentional use of the Roman confession that none of us are familiar with in the opening Divine Service? Both sides of the mouth, much?

William Weedon said...

FWIW, the “Roman confession” used in the opening liturgy has been part of our praying since LW came out in 1982 (closing in on 40 years now). It’s the confession of sins from Compline, Prayer at the Close of the Day, and thus folks who pray the prayer offices in our hymnal would be familiar with it. If you’re curious why I chose it, it was because this had been a tough run up to convention with lots of nasty and negative words. I thought it would be a particularly powerful way to begin convention with President Harrison confessing that he had sinned and being absolved by the assembly, and then the assembly confessing their sins and receiving forgiveness through him. And none of that vitiates the vital point that Fr. Peters made. He was not speaking out of both sides of his mouth at all. As Christians we freely confess our sins and live together under the forgiveness of sins and the liturgy provides ways we learn to speak this forgiveness to each other.

John J. Flanagan said...

I wish somebody who was at the convention would report on the areas of discord you are alluding to. We are in the dark. I do believe there are differences of opinion between some pastors who are "progressive" and traditionalists. Could this split the Synod? I guess all we can do is stay tuned.

William Weedon said...

The area of discord surrounded the closing of Concordia Selma. Many of our African American delegates expressed feeling blindsided by the move. Synod had in good faith attempted numerous routes to keep the school open, and communicated when it was deemed an impossibility. Sadly, some folks decided to use this painful issue as a political football to portray the Synod as “not caring” about black ministry (not true), being racist (not true), and being secretive (not true). There were some very cruel political stunts pulled during this whole debate, but the over all affect on the assembly was the recognition that even when you have done what you regard as the very best that you CAN do, you can still leave a brother or sister hurt or wounded. And so the confession and absolution. It really was a cruel thing to make this political when there were so very many hurting folks on all sides of the discussion. And some have repeatedly portrayed Synod’s resolution (which was the occasion of this debate) as “thanking God for the closing of Selma” when it was actually “thanking God for the blessing Selma has been to our Synod across the years”. However, the very good thing, I think, that came out of it all was perhaps the realization that sometimes Synod is certain it has communicated and communicated situations clearly, and yet it is entirely possible for those communications never to be heard, digested, received. And so I don’t doubt that there were folks speaking truthfully about being blindsided by the closing just as those spoke truthfully who said that the situation had been communicated clearly and that every conceivable attempt had been made to save the school. And sometimes, sometimes we move past a brother’s or sister’s hurt or pain too quickly. It was good that the assembly assumed some of that pain into itself and wept a bit with those who weep. That is what the Apostle enjoins us to do.

Carl Vehse said...

Resolution Resolution 7-05, To Recognize and Give Thanks for Work at Selma, is printed on 2019 Today's Business, 1st Issue (p. 105).

It was brought to the floor as noted in the 2019 Convention Minutes, Session 8 (pp. 7-8) and the discussion of Resolution 7-05, starts in the Session 8 video at 2:37:13. After several attempts to amend the resolution by removing various WHEREASs providing factual imformation about why Selma was closed, the orders of the day were called with the motion on 7-05 still pending.

On Thursday, Convention Chairman Harrison reintroduced a final motion to consider the unamended resolution and, after reading the Resolveds, with no opportunity for debate, presented it to the convention, which adopted Resolution 7-05 with a majority verbal affirmation. And, two days later, the Yankee Stadium spiritual adulterer accused the Missouri Synod of being guilty of systematic racism.

Anonymous said...

Discord...and don't forget just leading up to the Convention the COP, presented by its head David Maier, has to issue a statement to address (his part along with the CM people) outright slandering of SP Harrison over Selma and Hong Kong!

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Anonymous said...

And people accuse Carl Vehse of being a heartless clod!