The more our buildings, programs, and worship looks like the world around us, the less compelling or urgent the visual is to accompany the Word of Christ. The more we resemble the mall complex of shops, the less attention is drawn to the Gospel as God's unique and saving Word for the nations. The truth is that we already look and act like those who never profess any faith or attend any worship services so why would we style Sunday morning to look like the same kind of entertainment and variety show with a bit of an inspirational bent that you can find everywhere on TV, podcast, and internet?
The times require us to be distinct and distinctive, in the world but not of it, and clearly identified as Christian folk. What better way to do that than on Sunday morning? Instead of apologizing for our distinctiveness or trying to explain away our difference, we need to stand up for it and make it known. Lutherans often have a monopoly in their communities of the very things that the world needs. Now more than ever, we need to exploit our distinctiveness.
We preach and teach Christ and Him crucified. We clearly divide and apply the Law and the Gospel. We have a consistent and abiding confessional identity -- going all the way back to the Augsburg Confession. We have preserved the riches of our Western catholic liturgical identity but without sacrificing the cause of the Word faithfully and dynamically preached and taught. We know who we are and where we are going. We believe that truth and righteousness are the most noble of all causes and refuse to practice expediency or to compromise the truth of that Word. We expect to meet Christ on Sunday morning, on the holy ground of His presence, where His voice speaks absolution to our guilt, proclaims the Gospel to our wounded souls, and He has set His table among us in the presence of our enemies and with the foretaste of the eternal feast to come.
Lutherans are often their own worst enemies. We end up being embarrassed about our strengths and cannot stop talking about our weaknesses. The disenchanted and disenfranchised of this world find hope and truth and life and peace from the Savior whose assembly it is and whose is both Giver and Gift. But we find it hard to admit that these things are anything important and we play into the hand of the devil who says everything is preference -- from worship to music to truth. We have got to stop being so timid and start standing up and standing out for who we are -- which has little to do with us and everything to do with Jesus!
Not long ago we snickered when a Supreme Court candidate with the right pedigree and access to power stumbled up on the simple question what is a woman? We need to be careful. We end up looking just as foolish to the world when we treat the distinctives of reverence, awe, solemnity, and liturgy as if they had gone out of style or actually worked against true, spiritual worship. If we cannot be who we are and be ready at every juncture to give answer to the hope within us, maybe we deserve to decline and fade away into the fabric of nothingness.
I will admit and also admit I am happy that our parish is known for its distinctive, liturgical, ceremonial, and rich worship tradition. I am more than pleased that people have come to expect good and faithful preaching and teaching in this place. I could not be more proud that we have become a welcoming place where the stranger in our midst soon finds a home among us. We have no magic beans to make this happen. It has take a good deal of hard work -- teaching and learning the faith and then learning not to apologize for who we are. If you belong to an LCMS congregation, put your parish on the map for being known as confidently and unapologetically Lutheran in faith and in practice -- Lutheran in the catholic sense of that word that the Augsburg Confession insists upon. We have no doubt that God is giving us His best for our salvation. It is time for Lutherans to insist that we can do no less in return. Far from being a time to be generic or bland, Lutheranism needs to be boldly who we say we are. Before it is too late.