Monday, April 30, 2012

How to speak in tongues.... Lutheran Satire Style

Sad little tidbit of trivia.... I actually had to scroll through a couple of pages of YouTube Videos that claim (honestly) to teach how to speak in tongues -- before I got to this one that I had in mind.... so sad....

Top 50 Countries on Watch List for Persecution of Christians

From the folks at Open Doors who watch those who persecute Christians.... And to think some of us are under the mistaken idea that persecution and martyrdom is no longer a threat to Christians!

 1. North Korea

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea tops the World Watch List yet again as the worst country in the world in which to live as a Christian. Continue reading

2. Afghanistan

All Afghan Christians come from a Muslim background. Believers who are discovered face discrimination from family and community, Muslim clergy and local authorities. The government treats converts in a hostile manner, using any means possible to make them recant. The … Continue reading

3. Saudi Arabia

There is no freedom of religion here. The legal system is based on Islamic law and conversion to another religion is punishable by death if the accused does not recant. Non-Muslim public worship is prohibited, and although the government recognizes … Continue reading

4. Somalia

No one is expected to be a Christian in Somalia, so there is no organized church. Muslim converts exist as individual secret believers, and can only know a few others to make a small underground group. The largest known group … Continue reading

5. Iran

 85 24

Ethnic Persians are by definition Muslim, so ethnic Christian converts are considered apostates. Almost all Christian activity is illegal – from evangelism to Bible training to publishing Christian books. Many church services are monitored by the secret police. The governor of … Continue reading

6. Maldives

Every citizen has to be Muslim on these remote islands. The Maldivian government views itself as the protector and defender of Islam and enjoys full support by its citizens. Churches are forbidden, evangelism is banned and the import of Christian … Continue reading

7. Uzbekistan

The strict monitoring of all Christian activities has intensified, even in the Orthodox Church. Outreach, training and youth activities are forbidden in unregistered churches – and in the last ten years only one new church was granted registration. Private Bible … Continue reading

8. Yemen

Islam is the state religion and source of legislation. The few hundred Christians from a Muslim background meet secretly as they face persecution from authorities, family and extremist Islamic groups. In the north, no church buildings are allowed. There is … Continue reading

9. Iraq

Sectarian violence caused tens of thousands of Christians to leave the country in 2011. Christians feel that the government fails to protect them, with individuals being threatened, robbed, raped or kidnapped and churches being bombed. Iraq’s constitution says each individual … Continue reading

10. Pakistan

Christians are a beleaguered minority caught between Islamic militant organizations that routinely target them for violence and an Islamic culture that discriminates against them. Death threats are routine for church leaders, beatings are common, and damage to church property occurs … Continue reading

11. Eritrea

 131 24

All evangelical churches were closed following the government’s ban on all religious groups other than state-approved Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran or Islamic groups in 2002. Anyone discovered to be an evangelical is tortured and forced to revert to the registered denominations. … Continue reading

12. Laos

 101 14

The government exercises tight control on all parts of society. Small independent congregations are under pressure and have been refused recognition. Local authorities regard them as enemies; Buddhist leaders and village shamans also watch them closely. Most believers are ethnic … Continue reading

13. Northern Nigeria

Persecution of Christians is driven by Islamic extremists. In the Sharia states of the north,there have been many attacks on churches and Christian communities in which believers were wounded or killed. In the last year, an estimated total of 1,000 … Continue reading

14. Mauritania

Isolated from the rest of the world because of its mainly desert landscape and because it is ruled by an oppressive regime, Mauritania is very proud to officially be a pure Muslim country. The constitution does not include any provisions … Continue reading

15. Egypt

Since the revolution of January 2011, levels of violence against Christians have increased. Salafi Muslim attacks on churches led to the massacre at Maspero where the military did nothing to protect Christians and even participated in the killings. In rural … Continue reading

16. Sudan

Religious freedom is severely restricted by government and society. Islamic groups, wanting to form an Islamic state, persecute the church. Conversion is not recognized: believers from a Muslim background are treated as if they are Muslims. Following South Sudan’s secession … Continue reading

17. Bhutan

 9 3

As the country moves from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy, the situation is likely to change for believers. The church in Bhutan is no longer an underground church, since Christians are allowed to meet in private homes without any … Continue reading

18. Turkmenistan

 13 2

All unregistered religious activity is strictly illegal here and obtaining church registration can be difficult, if not impossible. Police and the secret services monitor Christian activities. This strict surveillance makes it difficult for churches to teach the gospel. The local … Continue reading

19. Vietnam

The authorities keep a close eye on all Christian activities in the country. Church leaders are closely monitored and Christians are routinely questioned by security police, especially when they witness to others. In tribal areas, village and religious leaders report … Continue reading

20. Chechnya

Still formally a part of the Russian Federation, Chechnya remains one of the most difficult places for Christians in Russia. Persecution is political as well as religious, since Christianity is associated with Russia, with whom they had civil war. The … Continue reading

21. China

Christianity continues to grow rapidly. Sources report that government representatives have been in dialogue with some house church leaders, leading many to believe the government has finally understood the house church is not a political threat to the state. Yet … Continue reading

22. Qatar


Nearly all Qataris are Muslims and most Christians in the country are foreign workers. The constitution protects religious freedom, but expat Christians can usually only meet in assigned compounds. During 2011, several foreign workers were deported for their Christian activities. … Continue reading

23. Algeria

Protests against the regime in January 2011 left five dead and over 800 injured, but the government remains in control. The church, mostly first-generation believers from a Muslim background, faces many forms of discrimination. There were reports of churches being … Continue reading

24. Comoros

Persecution on these islands comes mainly from the indigenous Muslim community, although government restraints remain tight. A referendum passed in 2009 installed Islam as the state religion and seriously restricted religious freedom. Only expats are allowed to operate churches. Converts … Continue reading

25. Azerbaijan

The government of this officially secular state has a negative attitude towards any form of religion. However, the population is mainly Muslim and the influence of traditional Islam is growing in some regions. All religious groups were required to renew … Continue reading

26. Libya

Under Gaddafi’s despotic rule, the situation for Christians was already extremely harsh. The secret police restricted church activities and evangelism was criminalized. But after the civil war that led to Gaddafi’s death, the future could be even worse for the … Continue reading

27. Oman

Almost the entire population of Christians are expatriates. The constitution protects freedom of religion, but legislation is based on Islamic law and all religious organizations must register. Foreign Christians are allowed to worship in private homes or work compounds, but … Continue reading

28. Brunei

About two-thirds of the people in this tiny Islamic nation are ethnic Malays. Although in theory all other religions may be practiced in peace, in practice only non-Malays are allowed to choose their faith. If a Malay converts, this ‘disturbs … Continue reading

29. Morocco

Protests inspired by the Arab Spring forced the king to adopt a number of political reforms in 2011. The moderate Islamic Justice and Development Party (PJD) won a huge victory in parliamentary elections at the end of 2011 and, based … Continue reading

30. Kuwait

The constitution protects freedom of belief, but the government restricts this in practice. Conversion from Islam to other religions is not permitted and the government actively supports proselytism by Sunni Muslims. There are only a few hundred Kuwaiti believers; most … Continue reading

31. Turkey

Although Turkey is a secular state, government restrictions, social hostilities and nationalism are key sources of persecution, causing discrimination, hate crimes and unfair judicial treatments. Muslims who convert to Christianity risk losing their jobs and being disinherited by their family. … Continue reading

32. India

While most Indian Christians are relatively free, many parts of the country remain key battlegrounds between Hindu extremists and Christians. Persecution is largely due to the amazing growth of Christianity among the low castes and Dalits, which threatens Hindu leaders. … Continue reading

33. Burma (Myanmar)

Burma transitioned to a new, semi-civilian government in March, stirring hopes for significant change, including the re-admission of Aung San Suu Kyi into the political arena. A new Human Rights Commission was established in September, with minorities represented on it. It remains to … Continue reading

34. Tajikistan

New legal restrictions introduced in 2011 are likely to increase pressure on the church. In August, a new Parental Responsibility Law was introduced which prohibits children under the age of 18 from participating in any religious activities except funerals. Although … Continue reading

35. Tunisia

Home of the Jasmine revolution which gave rise to the Arab Spring, Tunisia is the country where democratic transition seems to have the greatest chance of success. However, elections in October were won by the Islamic Ennahda party, which has already … Continue reading

36. Syria

Months of anti-government protests have left Syria on the verge of civil war. Under the secular regime of Bashar al-Assad, Christians had relative freedom to worship, although Christian meetings were monitored by the secret police and evangelism was discouraged. Since … Continue reading

37. United Arab Emirates

As one of the most liberal countries in the Gulf, the constitution provides for religious freedom although the law denies Muslims the freedom to change religion. Society’s attitude towards Christianity is hostile and the government places restrictions on Christians, who … Continue reading

38. Ethiopia

Evangelical churches face some opposition from the Orthodox Church, which sees the fast growth of the Protestant Church as a threat. However, the main source of persecution is Islamic extremism, much of which is fuelled by external sources. The unprecedented … Continue reading

39. Djibouti

 0 3

Although Islam is the state religion, the constitution protects religious freedom and the government generally enforces these protections. It seems that family and local community are more active drivers of persecution than the government. The small Christian community consists mostly … Continue reading

40. Jordan

 16 1

As one of the most Western-orientated countries in the Middle East, traditional Christians experience some religious freedom. However, leaving Islam is prohibited and Muslims who become Christians often face legal discrimination, abuse from family and community, and difficulty getting and … Continue reading

41. Cuba

One of the few remaining Communist regimes, Cuba continues to isolate itself from the rest of the world. The totalitarian regime allows no competitors of any kind. Religious groups complain about widespread surveillance and infiltration by state security agents. Pastors … Continue reading

42. Belarus

Often considered the last surviving dictatorship in Europe, the government allows almost no political opposition. The Orthodox Church is the only officially recognized denomination. Unregistered religious activity can result in imprisonment or heavy fines. Unregistered churches are monitored by the … Continue reading

43. Indonesia

The church is facing increasing hostility. Though the national authorities try to look neutral, in reality they are eager to win support from Muslim parties. Muslim extremist groups continue to grow more violent towards Christians and are experiencing no resistance … Continue reading

44. Palestinian Territories

The decline in the number of Palestinian believers is accelerating. Many have emigrated because of the increasing influence of Islam, as well as political and economic factors. Indigenous Christians have the right to practice their religion, providing they don’t try … Continue reading

45. Kazakhstan

In September 2011, two laws were passed by parliament that imposed further restrictions on religious rights. The laws, which require the re-registration of all religious communities, seem to be aimed at curtailing extremist Islam, but unregistered Christian churches come under … Continue reading

46. Bahrain

As, one of the most liberal countries on the Arabian Peninsula, a considerable number of expat Christians live here and are relatively free to practice their faith in private. However, society is not tolerant towards converts from Islam to other … Continue reading

47. Colombia

Large areas of the country are under the control of drug cartels and paramilitary groups. Most Christian persecution comes from the alliances that exist between non-Christian indigenous population and paramilitaries, who view Christians who openly oppose their activities as a … Continue reading

48. Kyrgyzstan

The country’s first free and fair elections in October 2011 gave Kyrgyzstan the opportunity to grant minorities a legal standing. However, Christians face ongoing discrimination from society in general and the government’s disregard for believers’ freedom continues. The strict laws … Continue reading

49. Bangladesh

In June 2011, the government decided to retain Islam as the state religion. Amendments to the constitution are being proposed which seek to restore certain aspects of secularism, but for the Christian minority, little change is expected. In general, believers … Continue reading

50. Malaysia

Freedom for Christians is deteriorating. Malay believers face increasing hostility from the government and Islamic fundamentalists, while established churches are under threat. Malaysian law restricts conversion of Malay Muslims to other religions. In five states, it is a criminal offence … Continue reading

The stones that threaten...

A sermon begun, but never finished and never preached for Palm Sunday...

Palm Sunday, with its rich fullness of palms and entrance rite and the long passion reading, is often misunderstood.  Some turn it into a rally -- not unlike the cheering crowds who gather to support a political candidate.  Some ignore it as if it meant little at all.  Some treat the crowds as the fickle in heart who cry out "Hosanna" one day and "crucify" the next.

Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, complete with cheering crowds and branches of palm, was upsetting -- a challenge to the religious authorities of the time. The salutation of “Hosanna to the Son of David,” was a direct reference to Christ the Messiah and a claim of kingship that was clearly threatening to the status quo. The warning of the authorities (Luke 19:39) is clear, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” Christ’s response is often overlooked:  “I tell you that if they were to keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”

The implication is that the Palm Sunday welcome was not some spontaneous or unexpected event but one that had prophetic promise and messianic fulfillment.  If the people would have kept silent, the very stones themselves would have been forced to fill the gap and shout "Hosanna" to the coming One who has now come. Inherent in this is the word from Paul of the whole creation groaning in expectation as well as the startling challenge to those who presume to claim Abraham as their father:  "God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham."   Even more in keeping with the theme is the promise to exchange the hearts of stone for the beating heart of flesh from Ezekiel 36. 

Hidden in this all is the plea.  "Don't make me..."  Like my mother who pleaded for obedience by saying "Don't make me come back there.." so the Lord begs with His mercy for us to hear and heed His Word.  The stones and all of creation call us to faith.  "Don't make me cry out," they beg us.  "Welcome the Son whom the Father has sent...  Let your stone cold hearts be transformed in the beating flesh of life and hope..."  Hidden in the Palm Sunday welcome is the sense that all creation is looking to this moment and in its groaning longs for us to recognize what God is doing (what God has done), and to awaken to His mercy with faith and the voice of praise.  "Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord."

As we sing them each week in the Sanctus, we cannot help but think of the stones.  They beg us to awaken with faith to the great and wondrous mercy revealed to us and for us in His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.  When we sing in the Sanctus to echo the voices of that Palm Sunday welcome so long ago, we testify to the fact that the Word has done its bidding.  It has called us to faith.  It has enabled us to recognize Him who comes in the name of the Lord and it has called forth in us the words of faith that welcome Him who comes (now in bread and wine).

The entrance of Christ into Jerusalem – His triumphant entry – is the arrival of creation’s liberty and our own freedom from sin's bondage and our captivity to death. Had the people turned away and refused to cheer Christ’s arrival, creation itself would have taken up the chorus.  But now we sing the Sanctus in remembrance of the faithful who called to Jesus when He came mounted on a donkey and in affirmation of the Jesus who still comes riding upon bread and wine to bestow the promised and precious gift of liberty.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Crisis of Character

I think more and more people are worried about the American character—who we are and what kind of adults we are raising....  From a piece by Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal.  You can read her whole opinion piece here...

You know how the proverbial Clinton campaign said, "It's the economy, stupid."  Some are trying to say that this election is a repeat.  It is still about the economy.  Peggy Noonan is not so sure.  She pointed to a list of the current news events which had nothing at all to do with the economy and everything to do with character.  From the GSA party in Vegas to the Secret Service men paying for hookers, Noonan goes down a checklist of items that point to a betrayal of our noble values.  She also identifies the tendency to turn the blame to others and to look to government for a solution -- but Noonan insists that the solution is not to be found by bigger government for the problem is within us.  Finally she reminds us that the polls that tell us we as a nation think the nation is on the wrong path have less to do with simple economic policy and everything to do with honest angst over the character we reveal and the kind of adults we are raising.

This is exactly the problem which we in the Church identify as sin.  The fallen man is not some free individual who looks for an opportunity to show forth the noble person within.  The fallen man is captive to himself and lives in the prison of his basest and most selfish desires.  The solution for the fallen man is not more freedom (in which error is excused, sin is justified, and wrongs are turned into the right).  Neither is the solution for the fallen man more law, more rules, and more regulation of daily life (the law can control our behavior as long as we fear its consequences but it cannot make us desire what is good and right and true).  The solution lies in the Gospel, in the love revealed is sacrifice, in the greatness that shows itself in being servant of all, and in the redemption that pays for the guilty and then declares the sinner forgiven and righteous.

I was heartened by Noonan's article.  It is my hope that it points to the beginnings of renewed conscience and the realization that the troubles we face cannot be wished away by well meaning folks nor can they be washed away by the growing tide of financial growth and security.  We have bought into an entitlement culture and we have shifted the burden from ourselves to others (especially government) to fix what is wrong.  It is no wonder that we have trouble seeing the Gospel take root in a culture that refuses to say "my fault, my own fault, my own most grievous fault."  Just maybe the bubble is about to burst.  It will not make it easier to speak the good news but when the hearers know the reality of conscience God has already laid the ground work for the Gospel. 

We as a nation have been on a constant search to blame someone or some thing for all ills.  We need to look into the mirror and stop turning away from the personal responsibility that was once the hallmark of our nation.  America was not born the entitlement culture it has become.  As one commenter put on another post on this blog, we were far too successful in the self-esteem program of the past and now we reap the bad fruit of this effort.  I hope many will heed Noonan's call to responsibility and accountability, to character and to virtue.  It certainly would not render the preaching of the Law and Gospel unnecessary but it could just provide a setting just slightly more friendly to the sound of that message than the culture of this moment...  I will wait to see...and keep on preaching in the meantime.

Have we lost our sense of wonder?

Got this from First Thoughts:

Today Mr. Miner (we’ve never met so I won’t call him “Brad”) has one of his characteristically sound commentaries, but seems to me to hit one false note with respect to language.  He writes:
Is there one person who may be said to have certainly “seen” (understood) the true identity of Jesus Christ while he lived? Mary or Joseph perhaps? One may be tempted to read the Incarnation back into the exclamations of Simeon and Anna, yet Luke (2:23) states quite clearly of those prophecies that Mary and Joseph “were wondering at those things which were spoken concerning [Jesus].” Wondering isn’t proof positive that they were not fully aware of the divinity of Jesus, but it’s suggestive.
The verse Miner wants is Luke 2:33, not 2:23, but that’s neither here nor there.  What I am wondering about is what he means by “wondering.”  Nowadays we’re prone to say things like, “I wonder why he did that,” indicating a certain curiosity, a desire to know, an indication that we are ignorant about or baffled or mystified by something we want to think through and understand better.  I just used it that way a couple sentences ago.  Is that what Miner means?  That when Luke tells us Joseph and Mary were “wondering,” he means (or might mean) that they were puzzled, or trying to figure out who Jesus was?

If this is the way Miner reads the passage, then he may have fallen prey to the sort of change over time in a word’s use that C.S. Lewis cautions us about in Studies in Words.  I do not know what Luke’s Greek was here (and some reader is bound to tell us in the comments), but my RSV gives the verse this way: “And his father and mother marveled at what was said about him.”  “Marveled” does a better job of conveying what “wondered” once meant–that one takes in an experience as awe-inspiring, deeply significant, and so on.
The Oxford English Dictionary gives this first definition for the verb “to wonder”: “To feel or be affected with wonder; to be struck with surprise or astonishment, to marvel.”  Perhaps Miner is reaching for the “surprise or astonishment” here–feelings frequently accompanied by a sense that something passes one’s understanding.  But to be amazed and astonished–to marvel and be awestruck, even to sense something present is beyond your ken–is perfectly consistent with Mary and Joseph’s full knowledge of who their little boy was.  That they were in the presence of the divine second Person of the Trinity must have been a daily source of wonder and amazement to them.  They lived with a miracle, the greatest of all miracles.

It certainly does point us to the need to read the Scriptures from more than one version if in English and to the value of the Biblical languages... perhaps one could have written a whole sermon on this lack of wonder and its replacement with curiosity or question and then had to say... well, never mind...  We may have lost our sense of wonder; Mary never did.

Glorifying the Practical...

Many believe that Christianity is largely theoretical and not very practical -- unless you are just about to die, of course.  It seems to me that there is some truth to this.  Christians have spent a wad of cash and not a little ink to prove that Christian faith and life is eminently practical.  The purveyors of this pragmatic faith have become the most successful entrepreneurs of Christianity -- the Rick Warrens and Bill Hybels and Joel Osteens of this world.  They are bottom line kind of folks.  If the Church is to grow, what can we do to grow it?  If the people are placed on earth with a purpose, what can we to facilitate that purpose?  If the focus of people is largely on the here and now, then what can we do to repackage Christianity to meet the needs of a people seeking a better life now?  If the most successful format of Christian worship is largely a religious entertainment model, then how can put on the best show on earth so that people will pay money to watch it?

Some will say I am being disingenuous and crass.  Perhaps.  Part of me admires them because they seem to be doing a better job that I am at packing them in.  They are the Wal-Marts of the religious landscape -- selling everything from great coffee to a good book while offering the masses a good show and a good price on Sunday morning.  I am definitely a mom and pop shop kind of guy in a small business setting (to complete the analogy).  I honestly am tempted by their success.  I don't know of a Pastor with a heart for people and the faith who is not so tempted.  But I don't believe the attraction of Christianity is its practicality.  Don't get me wrong, I am not saying it is entirely impractical but that its practicality is NOT its appeal.

Hardly anything you see or we do on Sunday morning is practical.  Not the vestments or the liturgy, not the organ or the choir, not the paraments and painting or the wooden pews and kneelers.  But that is the point.  It was practicality that got us in trouble in the first place.  We sought a short cut to achieving our dreams of glory and it came with a price tag of death, disorder, and disappointment.  We don't need a better life now as much as we need a life that is stronger than death, mercy to forgive our sins, and hope to carry us through a life too filled with suffering, disappointment, and pain.  Christian faith does not guarantee a path void of mountains or valleys.  This is not some great interstate highway to heaven in which the deep places of life have been filled in and the hills cut down to make it all easier on us.  Oh, sure, somebody will throw Isaiah and John the Baptizer at me here and say but...  Well, I don't think that is exactly what those words mean.

Hardly any of the good stuff of life is practical.  From the smell and feel of a new car to the tempting taste of food they say is no good for you, we find ourselves moved from the realm of the practical to the most impractical of things.  Marriage is not practical -- it is work and hard work at that.  Children are not practical -- they take and do not return much for the investment we place in them.  Work is seldom glorious and rewarding and often is endured only because we need the paycheck.  Illness comes at all the wrong times and catches us in our worst moments.  I don't need to go on.... you can continue the theme.

So Christian faith is not practical -- at least not in the sense of the world's definition of what is practical.  I am convinced we do not need more pragmatic individuals in the Church but dreamers who dream the dream of Christ -- of blood that flows red into the cup of blessing.... of water that churns with life that is hidden in its transparency... of words that forgive the guilty in the marvel of absolution... of preaching that is not there to make us happy but to confront us with the Holy One who makes us holy by grace through faith...

Everywhere we go we are confronted with what works.  What we need is not the skills of the marketplace turned into churchly dictum or dogma.  What we need is the great mystery of the incarnation, passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus faithfully and vibrantly told and administered through Word and Sacrament.... in a setting that is a harbinger of that which is to come in heaven more than a reflection of where we find ourselves at home today (mall, living room, etc.).  I would love to have a congregation filled with this kind of dreamers who have encountered the manifest hope of God in the most unlikely places of flesh that holds the Son of God, a cross that holds life, and an empty tomb filled the prospect of paradise to come.

Honestly, I do not think people really want a pragmatic church or faith -- especially one that turns out to be unfaithful to Scripture and Christ in order to be faithful in its practicality.  I believe that they want an honest glimpse of heavenly glory here and now -- in the Divine Service with its means of grace.  If you think I am wrong, you don't need to tell me.... I prefer living in the ignorance of such heavenly bliss that to be brought low by the prospect that we do need comfortable seats with cup holders so that folks can watch a good show and leave for home with a few hints on how to improve their already happy and rewarding lives....

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Good Advice from Lutheran Satire Creator....

I was talking with a prof from a Synodical college about what can be done to increase the appeal and market our Concordia system better.  He said that my suggestions would be dismissed as  "elitist" by those in charge.  I left that conversation with a mind full of things...  One of them related his response to the way people see liturgical Lutherans.  Often, they are portrayed as "elitist" -- bastions of an old, antiquated, high culture that is no longer accessible to most folk and no longer desirable to most folk.  You know what?  How we are portrayed is often how we act.  We retreat into smoke filled rooms to sip our single malt scotch (or some sherry) while chamber music plays in the background and we lament what is gone as if we were those anecdotal minor titled Brits hiding behind aged oak doors lamenting the loss of the empire.  So I exaggerate.  We need to come out from our hiding places and confront the challenges before us.  We need to do so in a winsome way -- not simply as naysayers against all things new but as those who have a hopeful voice to speak positively of the vibrant sacramental reality that calls us, gathers us, enlightens us, and sanctifies us as the people of God, His Church.

Thankfully, Hans Fiene has said it better than I and has given us a great manifesto for the battle scarred soldiers of the worship wars -- an alternative to simply recounting the battles of old as we nurse our wounds.  You can read the whole thing here but I have copied pertinent parts of his post below.  Either way, it is something to think about!

Here he is in his own words:

If we want to stop the false teachers in our midst from digging their fingers into the toilets of Willow Creek and passing off their findings as compatible with the Book of Concord, then we must teach the people around us to recognize the lie of evangelical form and Lutheran substance.  And in order to teach them to recognize that lie, then, when it comes to those who sell it, we must out-confess them, out-proclaim them, out-evangelize them, out-outreach them.  We must simply out-work them, both inside and outside of our congregations.

So when they sing vague, meaningless, mantra-driven,spiritualistic blech, we sing the best of our hymns and we sing them right in the face of the word.  We pour those hymns out in concert halls, in youtube videos, at our dinner tables and anywhere else we can fit them until the world knows what Lutheran music sounds like and knows that Lutheran music doesn’t sound like a horrible, husky voiced U2 sound alike.

When they teach purpose-driven poppycock, we teach Law and Gospel and we teach this to any set of ears we can find in this world.  We teach it, with the aid of the internet, to people starving for the Gospel halfway across the country and on the other side of the world.  We teach it in conversations with our friends.  We teach it to our neighbors when a couple of Mormons come knocking on their door and we insert ourselves into the discussion in order to show them that our Gospel is so awesome it just swallowed Joseph Smith’s gospel in one bite and crapped it out the other end.

When they teach their youth to talk like hipster-evangelicals, we teach our youth to talk like Lutherans.  We brand the Catechism into their memories.  We give them the vocabulary of the Scriptures.  And we train them to know their theology so well that the pastors of the other churches in town secretly hope their youth group members don’t bring any of their Lutheran friends to the next Bible study, lest another 14 year old respond to their denial of baptismal regeneration by tearing them apart in a fury of theological evisceration so bloody it would make Quentin Tarantino nauseous.

And when they embark on gimmicky outreach programs riddled with a theology of glory and a denial of original sin, we respond by reaching out further with our hands filled with big, fat chunks of Lutheran bread.  So when they build sleek websites that boast of their faithfulness to God, we build equally sleek websites that make it very clear to people in half a second that Lutherans aren’t interested in marketing themselves but in confessing Christ and His forgiveness.  When they build coffee shops for seekers where one can learn how to have a proactive faith walk, we build shelters for the needy where sinners can say to themselves, man, when those Lutherans feed me and clothe me and care for me and pray with me and talk with me, they don’t tell me about how my suffering will be gone if I just believe more or trust more or obey more.  Instead, they tell me about Jesus and His love for me in the midst of my suffering, even as they’re trying to take my suffering away.

So this is what we do.  When the Pseudo-Lutherans speak, we speak louder to our friends and neighbors.  When they yell, we shout to the public.  When they shout, we scream to the world.  And we don’t stop screaming until God gives us what we need-a culture of Lutheranism, a world where people who have never even set foot in one of our churches know what a Lutheran looks like and sounds like, and a world where people understand that the only reason a Lutheran doesn’t preach or teach or worship or act like a Lutheran is because he’s not a Lutheran.