We have a wonderful Lutheran tradition. Many of our hymns come to us through the decades of time, cascading upon us like a waterfall of life. Our liturgies follow correct order, and we stress correct theological content.
Is it enough? Why do so many thousands of people simply rush by our well-groomed edifices on their way to somewhere else? Or, in some cases, on their way to nowhere?
I come from a long line of Lutherans, stretching back to Christopher Hieronymous Knoff who studied at Wittenberg just after Martin Luther.
But I wonder, have we confused culture with message? Our changing cultures in Europe and North America aren’t necessarily speaking the language of the Gregorian chant. I love it, but does it speak the love of Jesus to a lost world? Or maybe we don’t think that the world is lost? Then why did Jesus come?
We pastors and leaders appreciate doing things like they have always been done. Many pew people feel the same way. Could it be that the emperor has no clothes? Are we in polite denial? Is what we are doing reaching unchurched people? Do we really care? Or are we just trying to preserve Lutheranism with correct theology and music? The best way to perpetuate Lutheranism is to carry out a vibrant faith.
To be sure, the historical past and modern secular culture must come together. There is a creative tension between historical Lutheran styles and more modern styles. Why not both? Our new hymnal [Evangelical Lutheran Worship] gives us 10 liturgies to develop. As we massage and interpret the message for the secular culture of our day, old wine and new wine can taste good together.
We can be different. Luther, today, would be stirring the pot and challenging us to apply our powerful grace theology to a world of people who feel judged and are on the road to nowhere.
As Jesus prayed in the garden, he wept and sweated great drops of blood. Jesus really cared for people beyond his cultural comfort zone. The miracle today is for us to be caring in new ways because he cares. The Spirit calls us daily to be available to reach out with love to someone whom Jesus loves. When we get the vision of Jesus we can be culturally Lutheran and also feel the compassionate heart of God. Then we will break out into new forms and ways of sharing the beloved old story in a brand new package.
Let us go forward! Let us risk being different and try new things. In so doing we will find out who we truly are: children of God, redeemed by grace and ready to share a message of hope for all people.
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