Saturday, October 3, 2015
We are the products of our rites. . .
My own parish has a kind of lost generation -- some of the boomers who bought into a casual church in which the music mirrored the sounds of the radio and the participants in the rites were accorded their roles by estimations of equality and egalitarian ideals. They have followed their ideals to their logical conclusions and now their attitudes toward the faith itself has become somewhat casual and distant. They go when they feel like it and do not feel like they are missing much when they are absent.
Some of their children and grandchildren gave up on the church at the same time as their parents and grandparents and remain largely unchurched or underchurched. They have come to define nearly everything by personal preference and judge everything according to its entertainment value. On the other hand, some of their children and many of their grandchildren have rebelled against their casual attitudes toward church and worship. They have sniffed around for authority and legitimacy in transcendence rather than relevance and the old patterns of liturgy have called them home to a place they never knew existed before. In Rome and in Lutheranism younger folks have shown a definite affection for liturgical worship and doctrinal preaching.
Our renewed rites with their focus on the catholic ceremonies we once knew and the doctrinal certitude we once espoused have fostered a faith that, God willing, will raise up a new generation without the blinders of preference and relevance to betray them the way my own generation was. We are the products of our rites. Just as we grew apart from the transcendance of the Holy One and the worship shaped by awe, reverence, and transcendence, so we will grow again into a renewed understanding of the Mighty God who delivered up His only Son into our flesh to redeem us from sin's curse and its despecible child of death. We are the products of our rites. That very same principle which worked against us and the Lord's purpose will now become the rootes and foundation of a new generation of people who want the thing signed more than the mere sign, who insist upon the full counsel of God's Word, who believe that words mean something and that doctrine does not change or transform to fit cultural norms. Yes, we were the products of our rites and we shall be still.
I am personally encouraged by young men coming from our seminaries expecting to be Lutheran pastors and expecting their parishes to be Lutheran in doctrine and practice. I am hopeful that just as we were once led by a spirit at odds with our catholic identity, we will be led anew by the a spirit which is insistent upon the Word yesterday, today, and forever the same the worship which proceeds from this conviction. That is why we must work to support those who will lead us into a new generation of faithfulness. Sure, they will make mistakes and people will rebel against their leadership and some will raise untrue suspicion against their commitment to be fully Lutheran and confessional. But they will prevail if we who get it support them and insist that this is who we are, who we have always been, and who we must be if we have a future. We are the products of our rites -- both for ill and for good. A little child shall lead them and this child begins our journey on Sunday morning. Come, let us follow...