I had some time to look over some things and one of them was the report of my blog counter. Although I have had this counter on only part of the time I have had this blog, I was shocked to find that more than 20,000 folks had visited these pages since August 10, 2009, and my counter estimated another 10,400 prior to August 10. I am shocked and amazed.
So, as a Lutheran, I am compelled to ask, What does this mean?
One thing it means is that there is a hunger out there for conversation on things liturgical, for advocating the evangelical and catholic identity put forth in the Lutheran Confessions, and for a rich piety and devotional life that is fully rooted in this evangelical and catholic identity. That is a good thing.
As I prepare for the pow wow in St. Louis, I am reminded of the character of Lutheranism in which I grew up. The Eucharist was first celebrated quarterly and never in conjunction with a feast (read that Christmas or Easter). The ante-communion of page 5 in The Lutheran Hymnal was standard. The Old Testament lesson was never read. The black gown was the norm (I did not even see a surplice until college although I heard that in the late 1960s the Augustana Lutheran Pastor in town had one). Confirmation was preceded by a memorization ordeal worthy of your induction into the Navy Seals.
Now, close to 50 years later, a weekly Eucharist is preferred over monthly among Lutherans and most have every other week -- a huge increase. More than this, the Sacrament is no longer an occasional add on to a piety only Word centered. In addition, the character of the celebration has changed so that it is seen by most Lutherans as naturally flowing from the high feast days (like Christmas and Easter). The Old Testament is almost always included. The surplice is today what the black academic gown was in the 1950s -- the alb is normative and Eucharistic vestments not unusual. Confirmation is not just memorizing Luther and Bible passages (and although a lot of other things have corrupted this part of it, I find more and more catechism programs that talk about the why and what of worship, the church year, the Pastoral Office, church history, etc.).
BUT... at the very moment when we should be celebrating these gains, we find ourselves assaulted by another foe -- the kind of non-denominational, entertainment oriented, artist in the spot light kind of worship that no one in the 1950s ever would have imagined. So the battle for the heart and soul of Lutheranism continues but on another front...
Another thing I note from this blog and others like it, there is a means of connecting with those who share this common vision and understanding of Lutheran identity and practice which enables us to encourage one another though we be separated by miles and culture. For example, my blog counts visitors from the Philippines, Australia, Germany, Russia, Latvia, South Africa, and Canada -- to name but a few of the locales those who frequent these pages hail from. Networking is not a business term but the standard means by which we Lutherans rally together to a common cause for the heart and soul of our Church (larger than the LCMS). This is a good thing. I get by with a little help from my friends goes the song and the blogosphere is testament to this.
I have also found passion and passionate proponents of this Lutheran identity. This movement to hold up an evangelical and catholic identity consistent with our Confessions has many voices. It is not a movement of theological and liturgical experts whose star power moves it along. This is a movement of people of all kinds and stripes -- the learned academic and the ordinary parishioner whose interaction is delightful and whose shared passion is inspirational. I read posts here and blogs there and find myself daily encouraged by this winsome and welcome witness for the Lutheranism that is true to is confessional identity and for parishes whose worship and witness is consistent with this evangelical and catholic confession. It has been a wonderful source of encouragement for me personally.
So hats off to you -- faithful readers, anonymous lurkers, folks with something to say and those only listening, to the people who disagree and those who say "right on" -- I am so blessed by this little vehicle of comment. I hope and pray you are as well.
Who would have thought that we would have seen some of the things 2009 brought to us within Christendom or Lutheranism... or say good bye to so many of the faithful (especially musicians and hymnwriters)... I am both hesitant to know what 2010 will bring and excited by some of the things I have found since beginning this blog... But we will march along, day by day, whether we want to or not. As one wag put it, birthdays are not so good but the alternative is not any better... Tell me when you think I am off base, encourage me when I am pursuing my fits of fancy, and join me in promoting the richest of liturgical expressions within the rich catholic and evangelical identity of the Lutheran Confessions...