Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Church of Her Confession and the Church of Her Practice

On another forum, I posted this comment in response to those Lutherans (especially ELCA) who are thinking of crossing the Tiber or Bosporus (heading to Rome or to Constantinople)... I thought they may be appropriate here as well.

We all are in the search for a perfect church -- for one without faults or failings. So we look over the fence all the time to see if the grass is greener. I am not so sure you will find it greener anywhere else but it is often different grass. So I believe that the church as earthly institution will always be a compromise. It is a matter of what you compromise.

In my heart I desire a church with real teaching bishops, where the faith is not defined by majority vote, where the sacramental life is the central focus, where the liturgical life is western... I love orthodoxy... I find the western rite orthodox sort of like decaf coffee, beer without the alcohol, and steak without the marbled fat -- what's the point???... I am less in love with Rome... but perhaps that is because what I see in Rome I see in Lutheranism -- the shadow of what might be and the reality of what is... For all the great talk of Rome, I look down the block where the mass is a strum strum sing a diddy and get 1000 people communed in 45 minutes...

I am not willing to exchange one dream for another... so I guess I am here as a Lutheran for the long haul since my spirituality is clearly rooted in the west, in the great hymns of the faith, in Bach and the great Lutheran composers, and fully and finally in the western rite... and nothing among the choices offers anything without other kinds of compromise... I do not say this out of regret -- it is not as if the Lutheranism of the confessions, of the faithful proclamation of the Gospel, of the great hymnwriters of old and now, of the mass, and of of the theological tradition is second best... it is as good as it gets... it is just that no matter where you look, the good of the confession lies in the shadow of the expediency of practices and identities which fail to live up to these words...

I am a Lutheran... I am not always sure which body this Lutheran fits best in... but I am a Lutheran... and to work for a Lutheranism which lives up to its confessional identity and catholic liturgical life is the noble call of those who dream the dream and who want to make it or any church more than a dream...

I believe that the compromise I make in the Lutheran Church is not a doctrinal compromise -- that is a Church whose confession of faith is in error -- but a compromise in practice. We do not live up to all that we are. This is a compromise I am willing to live with because it does not involve denial of the Christian truth. It is an acceptable compromise only because the Lutherans (including me) do not live up to what they confess. I am okay with this because we are always working on living up to what we confess -- as individuals and as a Church. I believe that if the confession is faithful, then we have the tools to make the practice faithful. That is why I am a Lutheran. If the confession is in error, then we have no tools to correct the practice and every aberration stands without challenge. I am a Lutheran because we have a faithful confession, because that is the doctrinal standard of every Lutheran congregation, and therefore the anchor which holds us. We may drift in practice but our confession is secure. And it is a whole lot easier to pull a ship back to her moorings on a secure anchor than to retrieve a ship loose on a sea of change with no anchor whatsoever. Soli Deo Gloria!

1 comment:

Janis Williams said...

Pastor, I agree.

Still, how do we teach that confession? In an age when it seems few love reading, how do we teach that confession? In an age when children are too interested in the Wii (and the me), how do we teach that confession? In an age when practice trumps thought, 'service' trumps doctrine, how do we teach that confession?

I'm not asking for an actual answer, just whining, I guess (would I like a little cheese with that whine?).

As one new to Lutheransim, a lover of books and reading, a lover of the Divine Service, I fear for my newfound home at times. I've been there in the churches you sometimes speak of in sermons. The church that loves feelings, loves to accomodate even the Gospel to our cravings is a creeping fungus. It will infect every mind not strengthened with Truth.

Courage. The Church will not fail. Our Lord has promised it. (I'm speaking to myself, here.) Our place is to teach Truth even when it seems no one is listening. Use new means, like technology, but nothing will replace the Means of Grace; nothing can replace the ministry of Word and Sacrament.

We (I) must labor to pull on the anchor chain harder.