Monday, July 15, 2019
Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace
But we dare not forget that this is not a business, not a corporation, not a cause, and not a rally. It is the work of the CHURCH we are doing. Under it all we have an agenda not set by a president's office or floor committees but by God. It will be our task through it all to remember this when it will seem like this is either fun and games or political drama. Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace -- that is why we are here. We are not here to invent new doctrines or to latch on to quirky or novel interpretations of Scripture or to leave behind the sacred deposit for the promise of something new or different. We are not here to exercise political muscle. We are not here to raise up a purpose or a cause different from the one the Lord has given. Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, that is enough of an agenda in a world growing ever unfriendly to the cause of Christ and ever more difficult for the baptized as they live out their vocation of new life in Christ. That is enough of an agenda as we face the prospect of the mother church of far off places being dwarfed by the Gospel success there and our own decline. That is enough of an agenda as we are tempted to mimic the entrepreneur style evangelicals in their successful work building little kingdoms on earth. That is enough of an agenda as we recall with nostalgia the past that seemed so much easier and more friendly. That is enough of an agenda as the LCMS gathers.
Maintain. . . if we do this, we have done enough. If we maintain the unity of the Spirit not through vaguely worded motions that mean what we think they mean but through holding onto the faith and holding it up in our own day, that is enough. If we maintain the unity of the Spirit through the refreshment of the Word of God, through the common voices raised in prayer, and through the many voices joined as one in song, that is enough. If we maintain the unity of the Spirit and can do it in the bond of peace, as brothers and sisters in Christ through the grace of our common life born in baptism and our life refreshed through confession and absolution, that is enough.
I do not have huge expectations for Tampa and I hope few are so tempted to pin their hopes and dreams on one convention and a few votes. Yes, they mean something and yes we must do the church's business but we are not a business or a political party or conventioneers. We are God's people, representing God's parishes, here to remember that in all we say and do. It is God's own enterprise and His Word will not return to Him empty. It is enough that we send it by speaking it to those inside the room and before the world outside. Maintain. Maintain our doctrinal integrity, our confidence in the efficacious Word of God, our conviction that the Sacraments bestow what they sign, our joy that the Spirit is at work in the means of grace, and that no one and nothing can deter God's purpose or prevent His Kingdom from its appointed destiny or steal us unwillingly from His flock. If we can go to a church convention and then return home again without having lost anything of our doctrine and truth, piety and practice, worship and witness, then I call that a success. Maybe I am old or cynical but I think I have come to trust less in princes and dominions and more in God's providence and purpose. So if we can simply maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace in our convention and bring home the same, I call that a good year for our church body.