Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Life as a Muddle. . .

Lutheranism, like Christianity in general, has entered the muddle years.  We have muddled up the very things that we once knew clearly and concisely.  We no longer are sure what it means to make such basic affirmations as this is what the Word of God is or says.  We speak of the Gospel in such broad terms as to render alien to its definition the cross, suffering, blood, and death.  We treat baptism psychologically instead of sacramentally -- as if God inhabited more our feelings than anything else born of water the Spirit.  We act as if the Lord's Table were only incidentally His and it is our hospitality that decides who will commune, what kind of bread and what will be in the cup that are supposed to be His flesh and blood, and what words we will use to make the supper meaningful (when the old Verba or Words of Institution seem so, well, routine). 

The middle muddle years are the time when we have grown long past the exuberance and promise of youth into an adulthood winding down out rather than up.  We watched as our hopes and dreams were tossed to and fro over a world or real life problems and stolen from our hands by the actions of a history none of us wanted.  We were left with the disappointment and, no matter how hard we have prayed, the distinct feeling that God is not listening to us (perhaps no more or less than we are failing to listen to Him).

We have everything of the Church except faith.  We have made constitutional review and restructuring a science and become experts in its formularies.  We feel that we are the Church because we have all the trapping of the Church but we do not know for sure what we ought to be doing as the Church.  We can count on no common morality, we share no common vocabulary for confession or for worship, we sing what we want and we all want different songs.  We have left to our children a series of acronyms for churches, parachurch organizations, and ideas instead of the raw confidence in God's Word that endures forever.

But this is not rocket science.  We need not await a genius.  A little child can remind us what we need.  We need to surrender our preferences and listen to the voice of God speaking through His Word.  We need to learn anew the wisdom of the Catechism.  We need to listen to the hymns of old that have stood the test of time and learn to sing them anew before we begin substituting our little ditties for the great heritage.  We need to open the hymnal and pray its words.  We need to get up off our duffs and go to church, bringing the entire family together, and paying attention to what happens there.  We need to support the Church and God's work as if it really were the high priority we said it was.  We need turn off some of the technology to rekindle the art of friendship the way Christ showed us friendship, loving us even to death.  We need to love our neighbors not with lofty words but with the courage to share with them the one Gospel that saves and share with them the resources God has supplied us in abundance to relieve their poverty. 

Living in a muddle is not a fatal diagnosis.  It is what always happens when we choose shadows over the Light that shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.  Step into the Light.  It is harsh at first to our tender eyes but the Spirit is there to focus our sight so that we might possess anew with great joy and the peace of a clear conscience the forgiveness, life, and salvation that Christ has come to bestow.

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