Monday, June 14, 2010

Should You Have to Think...?

Imagine that you're a Lutheran pastor in front of a worshiping congregation. As you adorn the Divine Service with beauty and dignity, in response to the rich blessings Christ pours out in His Word, should you have to think, "Whoa. I hope I'm not being too reverent"? Of course not! Such a fear would never enter your mind unless you were confronted by pews full of idolaters!

Suppose that you're carefully following the liturgy according to the altar book that your church chose and approved. But look! There are notes written there, not only for the congregation to sing, but also for the pastor! You know that this is distinctively rooted in the historic practice of the Lutheran church. You know that there is no law, in heaven or on earth, against chanting the service. You know the notes, moreover, and you know how to sing them well. Should you have to think, "Gee, I hope I don't get in trouble for singing this"? Only in a legalistic church--which could certainly never wear the name Lutheran!

Suppose you have studied the Lutheran Confessions. You have wrestled with Scripture and the historic testimony of many other theologians. You have become convinced that the doctrines setting Lutherans apart from other Christians really matter, and that the Confessions have God's Word on their side. You have taken a vow to contend for this teaching and a public call to teach it. As you grip the pulpit-rail and look out over the faces of your flock, should you have to ask yourself: "Do I have the nerve to proclaim this?" Of course not! These folks are hungry for God's Word, right?

But suppose you have asked yourself these questions. Suppose that, literally in fear and trembling, you went ahead and shepherded your lambs by the best lights in view. And then suppose that, for your sins, you got whipped out of town by a disorderly mob. And now, busted down to a mere layman (yea, and less than a layman*), you searched and searched for a faithful congregation to worship with. Should you have to think, "Maybe I'm better off not going to any church"? Never! Especially not in a city that has as many Lutheran Churches as Taco Bell restaurants!

And having finally found such a parish, suppose a career bureaucrat from an auxiliary service organization known as "Synod" made a presentation to your church. Or, more likely, suppose someone went around whispering to your co-parishioners until a sliver-thin majority was convinced that your liturgical/doctrinal heritage was preventing the church from really hanging fire in the local culture--or, if not convinced, at least persuaded to keep quiet. Should you have to think, "Gosh! Our beliefs could really be holding us back"? Don't be silly! You joined this church because of its teachings; who dares to tell you that no one would join a church that teaches thus?!

Wait! There's one more step. If you're a Missouri Synod Lutheran, this step is now being tested in a California circuit court. Suppose your congregation agrees to stick with its wholesome, historic doctrine and liturgy. Suppose you vow not to let go of the assurance of God's full, free, unconditional forgiveness--the priceless comfort that makes Lutheranism unique. You feel safe knowing that, if Synod goes to the dogs, you can always exercise your congregational sovereignty and depart, church property and all. A surprise may be in store for you. For a day is coming when you may have to think: "Whoa! All our base are belong to them!!"

1 comment:

Robbie F. said...

* For example, as long as you're still rostered as a minister, you can never serve as your congregation's delegate to a circuit convocation, etc.