Wednesday, January 18, 2012

It's not nothing...

A friend who is Roman Catholic was complaining about things at his Roman Catholic parish.  He said the highpoint of the music is still "Gather Us In" style of song.  He said the priest still wanders from the text of the Mass.  He said the people still dress like they are going to a picnic.  He said that the distribution still uses too many extraordinary ministers, that people are still not kneeling, and that it is a warehouse style of Church (get um in and get um out).  So I assumed he was disappointed about the changes in the Mass.  I was wrong.  He said, "It is not nothing.  The crisis in the Catholic Church won't be solved by a few words changing.  But it is not nothing.  It is a start and a start in the right direction."

This fellow is generally a glum guy about most things (don't even ask him about politics or professional sports).  But... I found his statement honest but positive.  I think we Lutherans (especially Missourians and I speak in particular to Missourians) might learn something from him.  For all the struggles we have faced, there have been symbolic yet significant strides toward a hopeful future.  I am going to name a few things that may not be everything but they are not nothing, either.

  1. Lutheran Service Book has largely brought us back to one book and it is a fine book and has the best hymn collection of any hymnal in this country (no matter the denomination) -- if it is underused.  It is not everything but it is not nothing!
  2. Our leadership is addressing the financial urgency and the restructuring mandate in our Synod with careful but confident leadership -- even if the problems are not solved or solvable right now.  It is not everything but it is not nothing!
  3. Our Seminaries have solidly Lutheran faculties and, while I prefer one to the other, they are generally producing good candidates and good Lutheran theologians -- even if some of them change their stripes or change their perspective once away from the campus.  It is not everything but it is not nothing!
  4. Though we are half the size of the ELCA, Missouri stepped up to the plate and adopted a big goal with respect to a huge problem in the Lutheran Malaria Initiative -- even if we may not reach our goals or overcome this plague upon the poor (especially the children and the weak) we have shown heart and courage.  It is not everything but it is not nothing!
  5. While Augsburg Fortress is having big financial problems and other publishers of religious works are being scooped up by profit motivated public companies, Concordia continues to produce excellent products and especially fine works targeted toward more serious Lutheran readers -- though some of the curriculums are not nearly Lutheran enough for me and some items a little pricey.  It is not everything but it is not nothing!
  6. Lutherans are receiving the Sacrament of the Altar with greater frequency than ever in the history of our Synod -- though the catechesis on the Eucharist is not what it should be and the liturgy may not be as full as it should be.  It is not everything but it is not nothing!
  7. After decades of relative isolation and dead end talks with the ELCA, the LCMS has engaged Lutheran partners throughout the world, has entered into full communion with many, and is actively seeking out serious dialog with conservative Anglicans, WELS, ELS, and those who have left ELCA -- though we are still relatively lonely as a church body and I feel that pain as I know many of you do.  It is not everything but it is not nothing!
  8. The Lutheran Church Extension Fund remains the most profound and excellent financial resource of any church body in America and is healthy and robust even in this economy -- some of their decisions have not set well with me and others may have similar concerns about their judgement in terms of who to lend to and how much to lend.  It is not everything but it is not nothing!
I could go on but you get the point.... at some level, a whole lot of not nothings add up to a real something.  This is not a Pollyanna perspective, wishful thinking, optimism, or possibility thinking.  It is taking stock of some of the real and positive things that too often get swept away in the doomsday prophecies of those who say our best days were a half a century ago, those who say we have to become something different to survive, and those who look longingly across the fence into other backyards.


Anonymous said...

Synod and district officials have been ignoring problems within the LCMS for decades. There are too many problems, and they have grown too big to be ignored any longer. I am glad to see that they are finally being addressed.

Since the election of Matt Harrison, good news about confessional Lutheranism has been easier to find. The work must continue. Synod cannot do this alone. Hopefully, we will see restructuring of the wasteful district bureaucracies as well.

Once the honeymoon with Willow Creek and with Rick Warren is over, the LCMS can rediscover what it means to worship and pray like a Lutheran.

Anonymous said...

Our Districts are an example of
poor stewardship, with their bloated
staff, and duplication of Synodical

Anonymous said...

@anonymous. The districts either offer a duplication of Synodical programs, or they have programs that promote the exact opposite of Synodical programs. Imagine two horses trying to pull the rider in opposite directions. No other church denomination is this stupid.

What would it take to reform all the districts?


Cafeteria Lutheran

Paul said...

We can start by submitting serious resolutions for positive change at our District Conventions this year. After passing them through circuit forums, congregational voters' assemblies, etc., why not pass them to all other circuit counselors for discussion BEFORE the convention.