There comes a time, from time to time, when the time has come and you know it.
While "this too shall pass" can be a comfort, and contemporary comments like "so be it" and "whatever" can sometimes persuade you to just "let it go," I've learned the hard way in life that letting the big things go is never a good choice.
So, as I'm reminded throughout the Scriptures of all the sinners, "way back then," who were tempted to bend their knees to Baal and any other gods--the god of self, especially-- I am left wondering why we are surprised that so few today are willing to stand up and bellow "foul" like an over-padded umpire with confidence in his calling. Why do we hesitate to tell the church elected leaders and pastors preaching and teaching "garbage" in the name of Jesus from the pulpits to sit down, shut up and consider repenting for their actions?
A few weeks ago I was called into a congregation that is deeply divided after the bishop's visit. That visit was recorded on DVD which I had transcribed for accuracy. It revealed to me the ways and means used to confuse churches concerned enough to take a vote to leave the ELCA. I heard misinformation. I heard false teaching. I heard lack of integrity. I heard the bishop ask those gathered, "Wouldn't you rather stay with the devils you know than go with the devil you don't know?" "This was supposed to bring smiles," he said upon reflection. It's no laughing matter to hear his confession regarding who the "devils" are and his eighth commandment violation of calling those of us who challenge the false teaching and provide a new church body for them to align with "the devil." What I heard made me gasp and brought me to tears-tears of sadness for Jesus' own sheep.
In that public setting I opened my Bible and read from Joshua, Matthew, Luke, Acts, Galatians, Colossians and Revelation. We talked about what the love of Jesus Christ looks like according to the theology of the cross; what unity, peace and mission are in Him and His Church; that conscience is not bound to self or neighbor but held captive to the Word of God. All the while I could see the faces of those in the pews who already had informed me before entering the church that no matter what I said they were not going to change their minds.
Obviously information wouldn't matter even if it was the truth as recorded in the written Word. Stopped up ears and hardened hearts also are realities we are painfully aware of from the Scriptures. We live in those days the Bible described as the time when people would turn from the truth and sound teaching and listen to false teachers who satisfied their itching ears and told them what they wanted to hear.
I was told how one former pastor of that same church had preached from the pulpit one Easter Sunday morning saying that Jesus Christ had not been resurrected from the dead but was merely resuscitated. Though I knew there were those present who had, by their own admissions, stopped up ears and hardened hearts, I proceeded to ask why no one stood up that morning in the midst of the congregation and asked that pastor to vacate the pulpit. Why for "heaven's sake" (wanting to say for "Christ's sake" but knowing how that, unfortunately, is now heard more as profanity than proclamation) had nobody reminded him that if Jesus was not raised from the dead then we are the most to be pitied as Paul told us? I asked what kept anyone and apparently everyone from standing up and speaking for the sake of the truth of the Gospel and the ears, young and old, listening to this "garbage." I found out later that for me to even challenge the words of that former pastor or to suggest such action in a "church," of all places, was "mean spirited." I wasn't being "nice."
I didn't know "nice" was my primary calling as a preacher/pastor. When did the Word of God, both Law and Gospel, sharp as a two edged sword, get reduced to being nice? It's no surprise that all the denominations that have sold out for this message of nice, acceptance, tolerance, avoidance of conflict, and human unity are in freefall. The entire Biblical message from beginning to end has never been a story of everyone going along to get along because that was the nice thing to do. This is foreign to the nature of Christianity. It's not just a question of false piety or sinners trying to avoid confrontation, this is alien to the nature of the Christian faith and the one Lord and Savior of us all. Jesus wasn't "nice" He was faithful to His Father's will. That alone got Him killed.
As it was then, it still is now. If Jesus won't be who we tell Him to be and if He won't line up with the church leaders of the time, we kill Him--even in His own church. Then we wonder why everyone is so confused! The ELCA and other such institutional bodies are off message, which means they are not involved in His mission but in their own human initiatives wrought with sin.
So apparently, the loving thing to do these days is tell sinners what they want to hear, not what they need to hear and appearing "nice" is more valued than being faithful or even just plain honest. Pleasing people and avoiding any conflict trumps pleasing God and living in the shadow of the cross and its conflict that kills and makes alive.
The cost for obeying this lukewarm, politically correct, anything goes culture and institutional church is too high and waiting for the pendulum to swing back is different from waiting on the Lord and serving Him alone in stepping out by faith alone no matter what the cost.
To knowing this with certainty comes from faith in God not in one's own opinion. For you, whoever you are, know that the future looks different when you realize you are not alone in your thoughts, words and deeds as a repentant, forgiven sinner. True Christian community is realized among those who are unafraid of the conflict that arises from the conviction of faith and the working of the Word of God, both Law and Gospel.
I believe the global witness of Christianity as a whole is at stake as this is not just a "Lutheran" matter. People of the promise and of the Word of God in Christ Jesus need to stand together in the true unity of the Holy Spirit, not institutional uniformity, and renounce the Devil and all of his empty promises and all those who convey them.
So as recorded long, long ago . . . "As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord" and Him alone. As seasoned, confessional Lutherans we know better than to think we have a real choice in such matters. For He alone is the deciding factor in all matters of faith and life and mere sinners such as ourselves, redeemed by His own blood can do nothing other than be swept up in His sure and certain promise and taken along for the ride of our lives come hell or high water and the Cross we are called to bear in His name.