Monday, February 27, 2012

Are we uncomfortable with our own skin?

Some have contacted me privately and others have also suggested that I was more than insensitive in my post on the WELS answer to a question about crossing oneself.  If I offended, I certainly do apologize.  Let me explain.  An answer in an official church periodical is held to a higher standard than an off the cuff answer to a quick question as people walk out of church on Sunday morning or even a parish newsletter.  Second, if we are uncomfortable in our own Lutheran skin, how can we communicate effectively or winsomely who we are to the world?  Third, making the sign of the cross is not some strange practice of the weird but the very suggestion of Luther in the Catechism.  For this point to be lost in a concern for sensitivity to what others think is the wrong kind of fear.  Of course anything and everything can be abused or become mere thoughtless words or gesture but this can hardly be justification for the heavy words of caution addressed here.

For me the issue is much larger than making the sign of the cross.  It is a question of how comfortable we are in the Lutheran skin of the Confessions, the Catechism, and our liturgical tradition... the less comfortable we are in this skin, the less Lutheran we are... and the world needs Lutherans who find their confessional and liturgical identity uncomfortable about as much as it needs another religion.  Either we are who we are or we are not.

What I look for from official channels is the courage to confess and the boldness to be the Lutherans we claim to be in our Confessions and in our consistent liturgical tradition and piety.  Anything less and we are afraid of our own shadows.  I did not write to offend but to stir up the discussion among all those who would wear the name Lutheran.  Who are we?  The people we confess we are or the people afraid of what others might think if we were true to our Confessions?  Maybe some of you did not think there was this much at stake and maybe I may have overreacted but every time I find Lutherans apologetic about who we are, I am offended.


Lee said...
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Lee said...

I reread your original article and the comments. I do not find where you were "snarky". Strongly expressing your opinion and pointing out inconsistent and non-confessional thinking is not being "snarky".

As an ELCA pastor, I have read much of your criticism and critique of the ELCA, both in practices with which I agree and those with which I do not. While your opinions can be strong, blunt and honest, they are not "snarky".

Thank you for your blog and please don't give it up for Lent as some have suggested. If anything, write more.

Anonymous said...

The WELS Seminary professor's remark is indicative of avoiding one ditch only to fishtail into another. Making the sign of the cross is present, though sparingly indicated, in the rubrics in WELS's hymnal and altar book. Such a practice should not be completely foreign to WELS congregations, provided the current issue WELS hymnal is still in use and their shepherds are willing to be guided by the rubrics. Anyone remotely acquainted with and having an appreciation for the liturgical treasures of the Evangelical Lutheran Church fears that the danger of this age lies not so much in swimming the Tiber as it does in mimicking the vapid egocentric consumerism of American Evangelicalism with its pro-Calvinistic bias against Lutheran sacramental piety. I am a WELS pastor and I approve this statement.

Paul said...

I love the story Chuck Colson tells of praying with a Catholic (Roman) nun and feeling moved to make the sign of the cross at the close of their prayer together. I don't believe he acted on this particular prompting of the Holy Spirit at that time, anyway:)

Daniel Baker said...

Great posts, Prs. Peters and Anonymous.

Pastor Boehringer said...

Dear Pr. Peters,

Please don't pull any punches. Your insights are helpful and I enjoy chewing on them. I am frequently saddened by the missed opportunities to teach our wise and rich Lutheran practice in our WELS circles. (Full disclosure: I'm WELS.)

I sign myself and I encourage my catechumens to write in Luther's rubic back into the WELS edition of his Small Catechism. When it comes to our practice, in the WELS we so often frame the question as Why? instead of Why Not? (E.g. Why offer the Sacrament more frequently? How about: Why not offer...?)

Our culture's relativism has certainly invaded the Church, a very sharp sliver that has quietly implanted itself in our church culture (to borrow a turn of phrase from Prof. Deutschlander).

We aren't allowed to be polemical anymore, lest we offend someone or, much more likely, they infer offense. Having any kind of meaningful dialogue is hard these days, because we are so afraid of what others will think of us.

So hats off to those who have the courage to say what's on their minds! Dear Pastor Peters, keep up the excellent work. Cheers!