Thursday, February 13, 2020

Slow down. . .

There was a time, even for me, when it seemed the Church was moving too slowly, that things were too much the same.  I yearned for change but it was more the youthful rebellion so common to many than it was the fruit of a considered review of what the Church taught or how she worshiped.  But it was also the times.  We lived in slow times, or should I say slower.  There was change, to be sure, but it was incremental.  At least until the 1960s, especially toward the end, when it seemed that change was coming too fast and was threatening.  If that was true then, then how much is change threatening today, if for no other reason than its rapid pace!  But it is not only the timing of things, change has come to the most basic institutions and, indeed, to the very fabric of our ordinary lives.  It has come with such frequency and in such radical form that we know not what to expect anymore.  The fake news that would yesterday have been laughed off is now taken much more seriously because we really do not know that it could not happen.

In the face of this, I often seem rather out of touch.  I carry a fountain pen and still write out most things in longhand (the dreaded cursive).  I have a smart phone and up to date computer and occasionally visit the requisite social media sites but not as one who is married to the technology or to its contribution to the pace of change.  I am more a watcher than a participant in the crowd of movers and shakers who are moving and shaking our culture to the core.

The Church is often urged to be on the forefront of this change but I think it is wrongheaded in so many ways.  Slowness is not always bad.  In fact, in this case, I think it is quite good.  The churches which have jumped on the bandwagon of change are not faring so well.  In fact, those more wedded to the past than to the future seem to be doing somewhat better in the sea of change.  The Church is like comfort food.  When you want meatloaf and mashed potatoes you do not want new recipes.  That destroys the comfort these foods signify.  You want the familiar smell and taste of yesterday, a retreat from the things that are moving too fast all around you.  The Church is best when she heralds a future written not by hands or whims of society but of God and calls on the people of God to wait for the vision to unfold.  This is, after all, the wait of faith.  We are not left without resources -- we have the Word that is His living voice and the Sacraments that bestow what they sign (even anticipating what they promise).  But life on earth is a waiting game.  We await the work of our gracious God while it is still the day of salvation.  After that, our waiting will end and we will behold with our own eyes the wonder and majesty of God face to face.  But until then, it is best if we preserve and conserve in preparation for God's unfolding of the future He has prepared.

I have learned that change is not the panacea of hope for a Church that too often finds itself struggling.  Instead, faith, faithfulness, and waiting upon the Lord are the circles of our lives.  From repentance to forgiveness to repentance and forgiveness again.  That is our rhythm.  And the Divine Service is the venue where this rhythm is lived out.  The sooner we content ourselves with this, the better. 


John Joseph Flanagan said...

I can relate to everything you wrote, because I was born in 1945, and grew up in the sixties, attended college, served in the Marines, watched the culture change. It is so different today, and the technology is staggering compared to what we experienced years ago. I agree that the society became too permissive, even some churches changed in a negative way, embracing progressive ideas of morality and modern forms of worship which seem more self serving than reverent. Still, my wife and I, and many people we know, remain conservative and hold traditional values and "old fashioned," ideas. What can we do? Much of life and social change are out of our control anyway, but we can still hold on to what we believe. We do not accept all of the changes and cultural norms and ideas of today. In fact, we often resist such changes, only accepting the practical realities while rejecting many unwise or unbiblical practices which surround us in our communities. As a matter of identity, we identify as born again Christians. We worship as Lutherans, and we have a foundation built on our faith in Christ. Let things change. We cannot stop it anyway. The Lord says, "Be still." We feel less anxiety because of our faith, as a result of Our Savior, and for my wife and I, we are at peace with God.

Anonymous said...

I have good memories of fountain pens in kindergarten and first grade (???). Fortunately, ball-point pens came into the fore. I do admire how cursive does look with fountain pens.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, the ball point is the reason cursive is no longer used. The fountain pen places more ink on the paper the harder it is pressed and less when it is lightly touched to the paper, making cursive the natural flow of the ink from the pen as one lifts the pen slightly between letters and fully between words. However, the ball point does not have that variance in ink flow so there is no natural trail of ink from letter to letter. It is actually MORE work to write in cursive with a ball point than to print while the opposite is true of the fountain pen.

Just an interesting tidbit I picked up a while back.