Sunday, May 31, 2015
Romance and Reality. . .
The Romance of Protestantism, not lost on Lutherans, is that the laity are well catechized and well trained to know, to understand, and to defend the church's faith against any and all attacker and enemies. The reality is that our people, if they were once well catechized, have traded in the catechism for the latest and greatest pop psychobabble from the more recent face to hit the stage. They consume the generally doctrine free sentiment and the doctrinally suspect works from those whose names and faces have turned religious publishing into a lucrative business.
The Romance of Protestantism, not lost on Lutherans, is that Sunday morning does not matter much as long as the faith is faithfully preached. The reality is that faithful preaching is not exactly a hallmark of our age and people like story telling, jokes, and inspirational life coaching from the pulpit more than they desire an exegesis of the text, a doctrinal application of the lection of the day, or a call to repentance. The idea that Sunday morning can get by with practices at odds with what we say we believe is old and deeply embedded in the psyche of modern Christianity of all stripes. The hard truth is that what we regularly pray soon defines what we regularly pray. That is the lex of truth unpopular and unpleasant to people who do whatever is right in their own eyes on Sunday mornings.
The Romance of Protestantism, not lost on Lutherans, is catechesis does not necessarily need to happen on Sunday morning. The reality is that if it does not happen IN the Divine Service, it probably will not happen at all. In every congregation, including Lutheran, the majority of our people are not involved in any real Bible study through the week, read popular Christian literature more than catechetical or apologetic Christian works, and listen to the sound of generic preaching, teaching, and music as the soundtrack of their daily lives (if they listen to anything religious).
Nope, for Lutherans, as well as Roman Catholics and most other Christians, the Divine Service is the most significant catechesis they experience in their Christian lives. So what happens on Sunday morning has deep impact on the content of their faith as well as the practice. It is high time we woke up to the fact that if the Divine Service (the liturgy with its rhythmic order of propers and ordinary within the framework of the church year) IS and will always be the primary place where the faith is formed and shaped. Pastors who dismiss this reality are also dismissing their people from the means of grace where faith is formed, nurtured, nourished, and strengthened.
The Romance of Protestantism, not lost on Lutherans, is that our people are being fully formed by a rich and profound devotional life and that Sunday morning is an important part of this piety but not an overly significant part. It is just the opposite. The Divine Service (liturgy, mass, whatever you want to call it) is the source and summit of our lives of faith as the people of God. It is by God's design that the content of this Divine Service is not human choice but the Divine Word and Sacraments designated and endowed by Christ with His Spirit and promise.
It is high time for us Lutherans to dispense with the romance and deal with the reality. If our people do not encounter the faith within the Divine Service on Sunday morning, there is no certainty that they will meet it anywhere else throughout the rest of the week. I know this is not how it should be but this is how it is. Before we can begin to turn the reality into the romance, we must acknowledge and maintain the Divine Service and its rich accompaniment of faithful hymnody, the lectionary, and the church year to speak the Gospel, deliver Christ, and bestow His rich gifts upon His people. The most important time of the week for our people is the time they spend together on Sunday morning. We cannot short cut this in terms of content or time. If we do anything less, we will most certainly consign our people to the predators who come with enticing words and sentiment but steal from God's people the truth that is forever sure.