Tuesday, June 18, 2019
News to me. . .
Lutheranism is dying, as many have noted, but its death is hardly due to Lutheranism being Lutheran. In fact, it is dying precisely because Lutheranism has forgotten what it means to be Lutheran. It has so little to offer anyone anymore. Some Lutherans have decided that they are Baptists with a little chancel flourish, willingly surrendering the Sacraments in pursuit of a Word that is inerrant but not efficacious. It is true enough but not a dynamic force that is actually able to do what its words declare. Others have spent too much time looking at the grass next door and have decided that the pace setters for modern Christianity are the purveyors of an entertainment style Christianity with plenty of relevance but not all that much transcendence. Still others have watched the growing gulf between Scripture and culture and have let their angst at being left behind push them to try and harness the horse of change and ride ahead into the no man's land of doctrineless orthodoxy. Then there are some Lutherans left who fight over vestments and liturgy and whether things good are essential or things essential are good -- an impossible debate to win when the winning card is adiaphora.
That is why I am so passionate about trying to simply be Lutheran. We can do no worse by taking our Confessions seriously than we have by ignoring them, by taking the Word of God at face value rather than reasoning it away, by expecting God to be where He has promised to be and to do what He has promised to do. Lutherans have worked so very hard not to be Lutheran, why not trying working at least as hard trying to BE the Lutherans we say we are.
If you are with me, then we need to stop trying to save institutions and act like Lutherans. We need to be the Lutheran Church and not a community service organization or a group of self-help entrepreneurs or a witty troop of entertainers. If we plan on taking God seriously and His Word seriously, then we must also take worship seriously and the means of grace seriously. They go together. Worship is not about the preference of pastor or people but about the Most High God who has deigned to dwell among us, rich with grace to forgive, save, and enliven a sinful, lost, and dead people. Mystery is not a cultural force or the byword of the moment but the aura of God's presence, glory hidden where He has placed it, that beckons and woos us into knowing Him as He has known us -- a Shepherd and His sheep.
When we do this and fail, we will have no shame and no regrets. But until we do this we will have only shame and regret. We will continue to mask our identity and sell our souls to the people who make the best promises we can afford. I don't want to do that. I don't think most of our church body wants to do that. I live in hope and pray that our seminaries are turning out pastors who won't want to do this either. This is our future -- our only future. Anything else will hold no future for us at all, except the prospect of being mightily successful in growing a church either nobody on earth wants or God cannot recognize as His own.