By Jonathan Holmes –
I don’t go on Facebook very often. If I do, it is usually to find jokes and other humorous tidbits, or the occasional theological writing that a friend has posted that might be worth reading. Besides, The Jagged Word, of course. However, not everybody trolls Facebook for the same reasons I do. What, you’re surprised?
Over the passed few days on Facebook, I’ve seen photos of supposed “interactive learning” at the ELCA Youth Gathering this year, posted by fellow Missouri Synod pastors. It depicts youth from their church body enacting the consecration and receiving of the Lord’s Supper, even dressed for the occasion—yes, there are women doing it in a way what seems to be disrespectful, blah, blah, blah, same thing, same thing, same thing… No surprise. I mean, I’ll admit, it does look rather auspicious in the depiction of what we, as Lutherans, usually consider a holy act. I’m not condoning the acts of such a thing. The Lord’s Supper is very important to us in the life of the church. Except we’re all far to well prepared to react surprised.
With that said, what keeps surprising me—some pun intended here—is how so many people in our own church body are “surprised” that things like this are taking place outside our church body. Now, I’m not trying to completely bad mouth everyone in the ELCA. There are some rather orthodox ministers and people in the ELCA. Because don’t all church bodies have their good and bad? Invisible church anyone? We as Missouri Lutherans have considered the doctrine and many of the actions of the ELCA as heterodox, blasphemous, and just plain wrong since the day the ELCA was founded. We know that, and they know that; this isn’t news to either side. This has been ongoing for 30 years now, people. We shouldn’t be surprised. But everybody’s surprised nonetheless that the “other side” has done it again…
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: Why are we surprised when heresy and blasphemous things happen with those we consider to teach incorrectly the things of faith, and therefore Christ, having been led astray? Hmm? Maybe we need to look to the log in our own eye first? We do have our own problems, you know. Because, in spite of everything, doesn’t God say this is the way it’s going to be—that there’s sin in the world and things happen as a consequence to it? Isn’t it because of sin—heresy and other false teachings specifically—so many of the New Testament Epistles are written—scratch that—the whole Bible written? We need to stop being so surprised by downright sinful proclamations and actions. They are going to be said and done, even in our own circles. In fact, people have been doing sinful things for thousands of years. There’s nothing we can do about it. Sin is sin, and the world, yes, even the people who comprise the church, are fallen, condemned persons because of it. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. God Himself tells us that we are all going to sin and fall short of the glory of God. He’s not surprised. Disappointed, yes, but not surprised. Why should we be surprised?
Thanks be to God, He has done something about sin for us. In fact, he performed the greatest surprise of them all: giving the free forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation we receive through Christ, which is offered to all mankind. This is what we should be surprised about: in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us, the ungodly. In fact, on Easter, Jesus yells, “SURPRISE, I WAS DEAD, BUT NOW I’M ALIVE—ALL FOR YOU!”
Let’s stop getting so angry and worked up; that’s God’s job, not ours—“Vengeance is mine, says the Lord.” Let’s stop worrying about the falsity of others we know are preaching falsely already. We aren’t going to change their mind anytime soon—proof: even the church of Rome still exists. Call them out occasionally, calling them to repentance for the sake of forgiveness, yes, but stop being so surprised that there is sin in the world, and that @#$% happens because of it. Instead, let us look to the proclamation of that which gives life to sinners—YOU ARE FORGIVEN! Let us focus on the things we can change and make a difference in. Let us pray for them as we do for other denominations whom we consider to be confessors of a flawed faith. Let us look to Christ, the founder and perfecter of the faith of us poor, miserable sinners. Isn’t that the point in the end, for Christ to save lives?