Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The First Comes Around

(I have decided to repost my very first post on this blog, as I think it still holds true now - I've made a grammatical insertion by adding an "it" into the second to last sentence. Variata!)

Greetings to all. So, what pray tell is the purpose of this blog? Well, I wanted a place where I could be simply and unabashedly theological in my postings. This isn't about my personal life or thoughts on random events in my life - I've got a livejournal for that. This isn't anything that is official for me as pastor of my current congregation - there is a blog off of that website (that really has fallen into disuse). No, this is for talking about theology. Generally I will make a statement and then ramble about it. Let's get started, shall we?

Observation on Confessional Lutheranism #1 - We eat our own.

If it weren't for beards, manly voices (or at least word usage), and the topics discussed, one might easily confuse a bunch of Confessional Lutherans discussing theology for a high school girl's locker room during a cat-fight. Lots of scratching, clawing, hair pulling. It gets sort of nasty.

This is the great tragedy - because as those of us who try to be dedicated Confessional pastors know - there is enough nasty out there without people who ought to be your allies slapping you around on the side. I'm sure every pastor can tell you tales of woe that have hit him or someone close to him in the ministry. And yet it seems that when there is something to discuss, we pile onto each other. So why is that?

Here is my thought for the day - It is a matter of Conviction vs. Freedom. Let's face it, if you are a Confessional Lutheran Minister, you tend to have a lot of conviction. You've had as much schooling as a Lawyer and probably get paid worse than a local teacher (whom we know are underpaid). You chose a job with long hours where demands can be made upon you at any time, where you deal with the sick and the dying, where you have to instruct and correct people who may not wish to be instructed or corrected -- and all this with the Gospel. We are servants of the Word - and we cannot use force as the world uses force. I can't threaten to send a member who is being a putz to the principal's office. I can't fire a bad member. I can't choose not to take their case. In fact, I am expressly called to show more care for these weak brethren. To do this calls for a lot of conviction.

The problem is -- sometimes with conviction one begins to forget the idea of Freedom. Have you ever wondered why Luther was so unique amongst theologians, what set him apart, what made him different? He had both conviction and an understanding of Freedom. Read Freedom of a Christian - it is fantastic. Luther is the one who says ceremonies can vary in place to place as long as the Gospel is not threatened - shoot, Luther would even have let the Pope keep all his blasted titles - if only the Pope served as a true Spiritual Father and preached the Gospel. There is freedom there - that many of the things we could otherwise get hung up on are completely secondary to the Gospel.

And that's where the rubber meets the road for so many Confessional Lutherans. We have conviction, we have our ideas of how to be Confessional - and if someone doesn't agree with us on every little aspect of phraseology or practice - then they are evil. And we should recognize this for what it is - it's battle scars. The Lutheran Church has been through a lot and is going through a lot. Many have been taking the idea of "freedom" and substituting "license" for it. And thus we have learned to distrust freedom. And thus, we like to cut off other people's freedom, even Confessional Lutherans.

This is tragic. Lutherans give up too many things. This Sunday we will confess the Athanasian Creed - and the word "catholic" will sound strange to how many ears? We are no longer called Evangelicals - other took that name from us. Reformed? Gone as well. All through the 20th Century, how much of our liturgical heritage did we surrender until we drew the line at Scripture? We are only now reclaiming that heritage.

We need to reclaim the idea of Freedom. As Confessional Lutherans, we need to remember that if something is not forbidden or commanded, it is fundamentally a matter of freedom. Now, it may not be wise, it may not be the best - but it is Free. We need to remember that our brothers who have - and I won't even say different practice - but different rites and customs are not to be denigraded for this - but rather their Freedom is to be defended and safe guarded. Then that discussion about what is best can take place - but only in the context of Freedom.

We need to demonstrate what Christian Freedom is. Otherwise, the liberals take it and turn it into Lawlessness - and we by abandoning it fall into legalism. And when this has happened, we will stop eating our own.

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