Wednesday, May 7, 2008

"What the Church Militant Means to Me"

Some would say the Church Militant means to be always contending for the faith. This is true, however always contending does not mean always looking for a fight and starting one if none have come your way recently. The fights over the exact wording of a closed communion statement in the bulletin, blue vs. violet paraments for Advent, pinpointing the exact moment when you MUST leave a synod, whether to use TLH page 15 or Divine Service, Setting 3 in LSB (for LBW/LW/CW users-TLH p.15 and LSB DS3 are the same) and which direction to cross oneself fly around the internet perpetuated by self-indulged, self-important people with too much time on their hands. This is not what is meant by the Church Militant.

If you really want to contend for the faith, just do what you are supposed to be doing. The fights, the actual important ones, will come to you. Whether you are a clergyperson or a layperson, it would be better to spend your time in study of God’s Word and the Lutheran confession (no, not alone with your NIV, BoC, and a flashlight in a closet) to be able to answer the questions and challenges that come your way regarding children’s sermons, Sacraments, female elders, female pastors, praise bands, the latest American religious bestseller, fellowship, or whatever else.

The email group arguments, the ones that are not that important, may be serving to insulate you from the battles that are worth fighting. It is easier to vehemently argue against a Roman collar in the relative security and anonymity of cyberspace and pat yourself on the back when another Anglican-leaning person agrees with you than it is to tell the daughter of your congregation’s president that she is under the lesser ban because she continues to live with her boyfriend outside of marriage. No glory there, only headaches. Yet, the latter example and not the former is the Church Militant. When you are forced to contend for the faith, you do. It is not enjoyable. If the contention becomes enjoyable or becomes a hobby, there may be something wrong.

But what about all the body armor language from Paul? Aren’t we supposed to be always fighting? Yes, and we are, but we will appear to lose. In the real contending for the faith, we will turn people off, make people angry, hurt 21st century sensitivities, and life might be fairly miserable. However, in that real contending for the faith, you will be helped if you treat your audience in an appropriate way. If you are a pastor, the language and forcefulness you use amongst other pastors is not always appropriate. If you are attempting to explain to the Ladies’ Aid why it may be better if they didn’t sing “We All Are One In Mission” at every meeting, it really won’t help your cause to go into great detail about ordination and the Office of the Holy Ministry. They will not think you intelligent. They will think you a jerk. Any suffering you experience after such a boneheaded move you have brought on yourself. Take a lesson from the laypeople who go to work with unbelievers, Protestants, Roman Catholics, and idolaters every day, yet manage to let their light shine, not by being Jesus pushers or arrogant donkeys’ behinds, but by quietly and respectfully contending for the Gospel in their vocations in the world.

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