Wilken's third main section, though, really grabbed my attention. Here Wilken compares the LCMS to a teenage girl who longs to sit at that other lunch table - you know, the one where all the hip, popular, attractive kids sit.
Pastor Wilken summed it up this way:
If the LC-MS is that teenaged girl, staring longingly at the evangelicals, then what? We see them. They’re hip, they’re attractive, and everyone wants into their circle. Are we going to let them tell us who we are supposed to be and forget who we are?I only have one criticism of Pr. Wilken's address - and it's really not a criticism per se, just a wish that I could have imbibed more thoughtful insights. I wish he could have and would have filled in the sketch with more color and detail.
Such churches seldom end well. They end up desperate, sad, even promiscuous —with no idea of who they are or who they are supposed to be.
How like a teenage girl might the LCMS be? I think it's a wonderful comparison...and spot on! We in the LCMS sure do seem to live, act, work, and play under a certain "peer pressure" and with the base urge to be liked by the people around us. (And remember what happened in 1 Samuel 8, when Israel wanted a king for the express purpose of being "like all the nations" [verse 5]?)
I wonder what Pr. Wilken would say about the recent Lutheran Witness article that trumpets "Groups Ablaze!" and highlights a congregation's "commitment to outreach" that "extends naturally to social gatherings and recreational activities such as motorcycle-riding." Motorcycle outreach? (And what's with the picture of the wife apparently grasping her husband's belt buckle, which lies hidden by his T-shirt, as they stand behind their motorcycle?! See it online here, at the bottom of the page.) I don't have anything against motorcycle riding at all. But this is outreach?
Ah, how like a teenage girl, looking for approval by pushing the envelope.
And what's up with the ad for "Cafe Sola" on the opposite page in the print edition of the Witness? Is this some new kind of Reformation flavored coffee? (Okay, the ad says nothing about "Reformation flavored"; that's my phrase to express my incredulity. You can see what "Cafe Sola" is about here.)
I truly like the Luther quote that is used in the online information, but does this project really fit with what Luther says? The Luther quote reads: "Faith belongs to heaven above; works must be related to earth. Faith is directed to God, works to the neighbor." It would appear that we can now outdo the Reformer's wisdom. Not only can we direct our works to our neighbor, but we can also serve our neighbor while pleasing our tum-tums with a piping hot cup of java.
Ah, how like a teenage girl, willing to serve her neighbor, but only if she can benefit by it herself somehow.
(And, sorry, but I just can't resist this comment. Were the four Reformation "solas" - grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone, and Christ alone - no longer enough? Now we must add "coffee alone"? Pretty soon that will rank right up there with the age-old debate about how many Sacraments Lutherans have. Is it two: Baptism and Lord's Supper, or is it three: Baptism, Lord's Supper, and coffee and donuts after church? Now we can debate how many "solas" we'll hold on to? Is it four or, now, five? Enquiring minds want to know! :-)
Have we lost who we are? Are we constantly struggling to "fit in" and "be accepted"? Perhaps we need to give serious thought and discussion to these questions. As one friend also said, after he looked at the motorcycle picture and saw the "Cafe Sola" ad: "Why can't we just be authentic? Why can't we just be the Church?"
If we seek to serve our neighbor, then let's just serve our neighbor, even if it might mean a little more inconvenience to us personally, a little more sacrifice to our personal comfort and pocketbook...and, yes, a little less coffee for our day. Why don't we just stop ourselves from buying that extra DVD for entertainment and instead donate the money directly to LCMS World Relief and Human Care, or some other charitable organization...and without the thought that says, "What can I get out of it"?
If we seek to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus, then why don't we speak and print more about Jesus Himself and what He has done, and less about our human ingenuity at speaking of Jesus even as we enjoy riding motorcycles or whatever our hobby may be? (Although, I must now wonder if I can arrange a picture and a write up if I get the chance to speak about Jesus while I'm out walking my two beagles.)
If we seek to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus and promote outreach, why don't we focus on folks like the two Philips from Holy Scripture. In John 1 the soon-to-be Apostle Philip met and heard Jesus, and then he went to tell Nathanael. All it took was a simple, "Come and see" (John 1:46), and Philip had reached out to Nathanael and invited him to come and see the Savior. In Acts 8, the recently-appointed Deacon Philip (different from the first Philip) was instructed to meet with an Ethiopian eunuch. The eunuch happened to be reading the book of Isaiah, then Philip helped him understand it correctly by teaching him the good news about Jesus, and then the Ethiopian requested to baptized.
It would seem that outreach is really quite simple - a matter of an invitation from someone who is convinced that Jesus is worth meeting - and that it leads into the life of the Church - the real life, that is, of hearing the good news of Jesus and His forgiveness and of receiving His real gifts in the Sacraments of Baptism, Absolution, and the Lord's Supper.
So, instead of acting so much like a teenage girl (and a most insecure one at that!), let's be who we are called to be: the Church, the Bride of Christ, with all of the proper dignity and healthy security that that means. As the hymn says, "Church of God, elect and glorious... Know the purpose of your calling, Show to all His mighty deeds; Tell of love that knows no limits, Grace that meets all human needs" (LSB 646:1).