Sunday, October 24, 2010

What do you crave - A Lutheran Apology

What do you crave from your Church? What do you desire?

Now, that's a loaded question. There are many things that one might want from a Church that aren't spiritual in the least. Eliminate those from the consideration. What aspect of the Christian life do you desire most from your Church?

Some crave what I will call, for lack of a better word, the mystical. That sense of wonder and joy that comes from being in Communion with God. This is no mean thing.

Some crave holiness. That in the Church they will see their own growth and maturation. Indeed, this too is no mean thing.

Some crave support to wend through the dangerous trials of this life. Again, this is wise, for the devil is real and this world is harsh and coarse and would wear us down. The support of the other members of the Body of Christ is no mean thing.

I have been thinking about this because the question has sort of been raised - articles on Pelikan's conversion, appeals to me to head to Rome even here on my own blog. Just people moving out of Lutheranism has shown up a bit more -- and this is an appropriate time for this as we approach Reformation Sunday.

Why am I and do I remain a Lutheran? It isn't because I disdain the mystical experience... I think some of the most profound words ever spoken are, "therefore with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven we laud..." That's pretty awesome. Nor do I remain Lutheran because I disdain holiness. One of the great joys of my time as Pastor here in Lahoma has been seeing maturation in this in my people and in myself. (Now, I think too much of a focus there upon can lead to anxiety and despair - just like too much practice can wear down an athlete and make them hesitant come the game.) Nor do I disdain community and those sorts of aspects.

But I remain a Lutheran for one simple thing. Above all of those things, I crave one thing. The forgiveness of sins. The sure, solid proclamation that because of Christ my sin is forgiven, atoned for, done away with.

That is the kingdom of Christ, that is His righteousness... and all those things above will be added to you. And added safely.

And I crave this, because it is what my body, my sinful flesh desires the least. From a selfish point of view, many things would be better than simply being focused upon forgiveness, upon the Gospel. I could have glory, I could be entertained, I could have a more positive attitude about myself, I could have friends congratulating me. And more over, I could have all these things with a religious sheen or veneer plastered on to them.

I could crave entertainment and escapism and call it mysticism.
I could crave a self-focused religion and call it holiness.
I could crave stuff and call it community.

And I will admit, I could crave license and call it Christian liberty (which is why I am *not* Lutheran merely because of "freedom").

The one thing my flesh never craves is the forgiveness of sins. Escape from punishment and consequences perhaps - but never the forgiveness of sin. Never the focus that I really am a sinner - never the full sweetness that Christ Jesus has died for my sin.

By body, my flesh revolts against that, is offended by it, despises it. And so that proclamation of Law and Gospel, that giving of God's forgiveness over and against myself, that is what I crave.

I am a Lutheran because above all things, I crave the forgiveness of my very real and many sins - and while I rejoice at all the things that come with this forgiveness, I never want Christ and His forgiveness to take a back seat to any of these other gifts.

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