Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Why are we Lutherans the wall flowers at the dance?

With the dominance of the reformed camp in the Christian blogosphere and much of conservative evangelicalism public voice, there has never been a time the Gospel-centric, church-formed-around-the-Gospel/Sacraments, focused, classical, catholic, reformational, law and Gospel voice of Lutheranism was needed more.... so said the Internet Monk... Michael Spencer...

I fear he is right... I think he is right... no, I know he is right!  I wish it were not so but it is.  We Lutherans tend to be insular in our thinking and in our presence in the community.  Whether you count it up to some Lake Wobegon Lutheran deference to others or you write it off as our Lutheran low self-esteem or you see it as symptomatic of our Lutheran fear that we are not good enough... the result is the same.  We have so much to offer and we are far too quiet. We are like the proverbial wall flower at the dance whose presence is not noticed and who never gets asked to dance.

When it comes to evangelism, we are almost embarrassed when people ask us about our faith or our church.  When we visit other churches we bring back bulletins and are so impressed at what they are doing -- as if we were doing nothing to further the growth of the Kingdom.  When we watch TV preachers we are so impressed by the stadium like churches filled with people whose fingers are on their Bibles as they follow along the sermon/Bible study and then when we go to our own churches we look around and fixate on every empty seat.  When we go to the book store we pick up every kind of "Christian" book and bring it home and read it and believe it, only to question our catechism and the teaching we were nurtured in our whole lives.

We need to speak.  We need to speak with our own Lutheran voice and not some borrowed voice from some other part of Christendom.  We need to speak about what it is that we believe, teach, and confess.  We need to speak about our Confessions and our Catechism, and about our hymns and our liturgy.  We need to speak not as apologists who fear being Lutheran before the world but as apologists who glory in what we as Lutherans believe, teach and confess.  We need to speak winsomely -- not as a people with a big ego but as those who have found this wonderful place where Christ is present in the means of grace, where worship is catholic and evangelical, where preaching is framed around the poles of Law and Gospel and the message is Jesus Christ and Him crucified, where the music of the service speaks the message of the Gospel and not sentiment, and where we live neither under the tyranny of democracy and the will of the majority or the hierarchical dominance of clergy but living in the obedience of faith to the Gospel of Jesus Christ...

This must surely begin with the Pastors of the Lutheran Church but it is a message not for Pastors only.  Every person in the pew needs to learn to speak the confident voice of hope and witness.  We are Lutherans not for ourselves only but for the sake of the world.

I remember once when I said in Bible study that I wish every person in the world were Lutheran and that the Lutheran identity was the most faithful to the Scriptures and to the Church throughout history.  There was actually laughter among some and shock among others.  But... but... but... what about my son who attends a Baptist Church or what about the problems we have among Lutherans or what kind of arrogant jerk are you who would say such a thing...  I am not suggesting that we have a perfect church but are we ready to say we have a defective faith?  If that is what you think, get out of this Lutheran Church as fast as you can and find one which does not have a defective faith?  I am not saying that only Lutherans go to heaven or that there are no Christians in other churches but do we not believe, teach, and confess that the Christian faith is most fully and faithfully expressed in the Church of the Augsburg Confession?  If not, then where is the Christian faith more fully and faithfully expressed?  This is not about pride of ownership but about Lutherans who are Lutherans because of their confession and not in spite of it...  Our pride is not in the man Luther or in us but in the faith which our wonderful Confessions speak and proclaim.

Any church which is faithful to this confession is truly catholic and truly evangelical but not every church that names itself Lutheran is faithful.  We have work to do among us, for sure, but this is not to distract us from the work of outreach that speaks to lost people within less than Christian churches and lost people without a church.  We cannot allow our concern for the faithfulness of the churches named Lutheran to occupy our whole attention while a world full of people sits in darkness.

Faithful confession informs liturgy... faithful liturgy is confession... faithful confession is mission... faithful liturgy is mission...  Every Sunday after the Words of Christ, the Pastor says:  As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim the Lord's death till He comes..."  To whom do we proclaim this?  To each other only? Or is this a proclamation to the world of the Lord whose body and blood has become our food, who death is not for us only but for the life of the world, and who lives not simply to lead us into heaven but to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom to all people until the day of salvation is over and the day of judgment is at hand...

I wish it could be said that the heart of every Lutheran Pastor and every Lutheran parish beat with this sense of urgency, with this need for faithfulness, and with this passion for the Gospel in all its truth and glory... But we cannot wait for that to happen in order to open our doors to the world -- the world that begins with the very neighborhood in which we live.  No, it must be both./and -- not either/or.

If there is any truth whatsoever to the charge that those concerned with the faithfulness of confession and the confessional identity of the liturgy are less concerned with those who have not heard and do not know with us Jesus Christ and Him crucified, then we must do everything in our power to prove it wrong.  For our faithfulness in confession and the confessional character to our liturgy are the very things that we offer to the world as the gifts and means through which Christ is known and the means through which we make Him known.

1 comment:

Janis Williams said...

Fr. Peters,

Right! Thank our Lord for the Lutherans who are in the blogosphere! Yourself, Issues, Etc., Gene Veith, Brothers of St. John the Steadfast, CLCC, Ask the Pastor, Fighting for The Faith, Extreme Theology, A Little Leaven, Will Weedon, Pastor Cwirla/God Whisperers, Table Talk Radio, and a bunch more I am and am not aware of. May their tribe increase!

All who read, please pray for the Internet Monk, who has been diagnosed with brain cancer.