26 May 2008

Thoughts Ablaze...

I posted this on the ALPB site in response to some words from Bishop Benke. A friend suggested they might be of value also on the blog, so here they are:

As far as the family squabbling goes, I've tried to suggest that what the squabbling is about is not merely whose turn it is to do the dishes, but precisely caused by those who, from inside or out, would insist that the very things that make the Lutheran Church be the home that it is are the things that need to be dumped: her liturgy, her catechesis, her hymnody. I've tried to point out that I'm not saying that these things have a value in themselves; they don't. Their value is in their deliverance of the Gospel. I've tried to avoid the impression that I'm into preserving the museum pieces of Lutheranism; I'm not. It's a LIVING heritage that continues to grow. But it grows in continuity with what has come before, not by cutting one's self off from it. Let's be concrete: a parish that adopts the liturgy of the Pentecostals, welcomes adults in without instructing them in the Catechism (which is all about how to live from the receiving end of God's rich giving), and is held up by the Synod as the wonder parish we are all to imitate, does not make for accepting Ablaze. It makes for those of us in the house crying out: "There are folks here - from the inside or the outside - who are setting fire to our precious Gospel heritage and if we allow them to burn it up in the spirit of American evangelicalism it is not just a loss for us - but a loss for the whole world. We hold this treasure always and only to offer it to the world as the joyful life of learning to live by the Spirit's power from the great giving of our God."

Hope that's not too blunt. But it's the way this fellow sees it. It's not about little family squabbles; it's about whether burning our house down is a good thing or a bad thing.


Todd Wilken said...


The "family squabbles" argument is nothing more than an attempt to dismiss the issues under debate as trivial, and the debate itself as bad for synod's image.

The issues aren't trivial, the debate is necessary, and our image won't do us (or the lost) any good if we abandon the Gospel.

It's like a husband who suggests an open marriage to his wife. When she objects, he responds, "Can't we stop all these family squabbles? What are the neighbors going to think?"

William Weedon said...

Yes, and your rather graphic analogy invites the question: do we invite the neighbors in so we can love and serve them with the gifts we have received; or do we invite them in so we can "service" them in another manner altogether!

Jon said...

On inviting people in, for the proper type of service.....

I have been such a coward in the past, I have invited people in, but I downplayed this or that, or maybe even lied about the ingredients for the meal being prepared, because I knew the person in question would never eat that!

Even those of good will experience a type of cowardice in which they are embarassed of what they are.

It is time to grow up and be unafraid of what we have been given.

I think that those who want to downplay Lutheran identity, practice and doctrine are like teenagers that are afraid that a potential boy friend or girl friend will lose interest if they meet the parents.

It is time to grow up and maybe it takes those who are younger than those that wield the power now - because they are not mature enough to handle the responsibility.

Edward Reiss said...

Fr. Weedon,

Could you provide a link to the thread?

I think a major problem is that one side does not see how serious the other side takes these issues, which you point out nicely. That issue really needs to be addressed too, maybe first. I know that having my concerns dismissed with the wave of a hand does not make my concerns go away.


ghp said...

Yes, I agree. I actually think that the attempt to minimize the "worship wars" as mere internecine squabbles is part and parcel of the political power struggle that I've hammered on in several posts at ALPB.

Calling worship styles just that - styles (i.e., adiaphoron) takes them out of the realm of theological/doctrinal & into the realm of organizational/political - i.e., power.

We may be using the same words, but we're not speaking the same language...

Lutheran Lucciola said...

Pastor Weedon, this is such a beautiful thing you wrote! I feel this very much in my heart, that this is about either a living faith or it's about one that isn't.

What I have noticed lately, are the terms "conservative" and "Liberal", and how pointless those are also. It's either alive, or it's not.

Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

Not. Too. Blunt.



Past Elder said...

I'll add my voice to the choir on this too!

I became Lutheran and specifically LCMS for just those things from which some seem to be in full retreat.

It drives me nuts to hear the Gospel spoken of by some in our church in the same way our CEO at work (I work in a financial institution) speaks about hitting our numbers for the year.

This seems to happen from age to age. I think Walther faced much the same thing from what at the time he called "Methodism". The sort of thing in which my dad was raised, nothing like the UMC now. But back then, a Walther was the synod president ...

Herr B. said...

First, well said. "Burning our house down" and "an open marriage" seem like accurate analogies for the current situation. Also, i thoroughly agree that the issues are serious. I'm curious though: how did we ever arrive here? The Lutheran church has an amazing theological treasure. This treasure feels very thoroughly hidden though. Why is this? "Liturgy, her catechesis, her hymnody" -- these deliver the Gospel. Exceedingly well. Why do so many not appreciate these, wanting to change or abandon them? Perhaps i could say that, from my perspective, the church hasn't been very good in its confession. I would guess that there is push to change things because the church as a whole doesn't doesn't have enough of an understanding of what "being Lutheran" might be. The confession is unclear or silent. The theological treasure -- the clarity of the sweetness of the Gospel -- is hidden. How did we get here?

David B.

Hoffster said...

Pastor Weedon,
I would argue that our liturgy, catechesis, and hymnody do have value in this respect: there exists no better method that better purveys the Gospel in all its richness (and this coming from someone who was trained in an Evangelical seminary!)
C. Hoff

William Weedon said...


I thought that's what I said? :)

Their value is in their delivery of the Gospel goodies; their service in the Lord's will to give forgiveness, life, and salvation through the Word they bear.

Todd Wilken said...

Will and Hoffster:

Rather than talk about liturgy, catechesis and hymnody as "method," shouldn't we see them as the faithful confession of the Church (Matthew 10:32; Hebrews 10:23; 13:15) and what Paul called "the pattern of the sound words" (2 Timothy 1:13)?

The Sacraments, preaching and teaching are divinely instituted means of the Gospel. Liturgy and hymnody have naturally grown out of these means.

William Weedon said...


In a word, yes. The liturgy is the Church's prayed confession; the hymns her sung confession; the catechism her taught confession. What they're all after is training in how to live as a forgiven sinner at the end of God's gracious giving in the means of grace.


How did it happen? Damned if I know. Doesn't make the least bit of sense of to me at all. I don't understand why anyone would prefer to sing "Shine Jesus Shine" to "Lord, let at last Thine Angels Come." Maybe it came about when Lutherans forgot that our joyful task is to prepare people to die the blessed death instead of vainly teaching them to live their best life now? A shift from the true treasures of the Church to methods of coping with the present?

Rev. Gerson Flor said...

C'mon Pastor Wilken,
how can you ever hope to get your "job" back if you keep talking this clearly about the apple of the king's eye? You keep calling things what they are, and the paid roster of synodical institutions doesn't seem to have much room for theologians of the cross these days. (I'm quite surprised there are some still hanging in there...)

Todd Wilken said...

How did we get here?

Here's my beginning of an answer.

Other factors? Listen here to "2007 CSL Symposia Address."

How did we get here? Short answer? We walked here --together.

It's high time that we retraced our steps back to the right road.

Susan said...

I really liked the way you expressed your thoughts on Ablaze.

And I would like to offer two links that are complimentary to your thoughts:

Scott has done it again on his blog Stand Firm! A Tale of Two Reports

Dr Mark Nispel (Engineer, Layman, Liturgist, and Latinist) responds to a paper supporting Ablaze by District President of the CNH - looks very good to me, but you would be better able to evaluate his critical review than me.

Michelle said...

I spent 18 years of my life following high school graduation in Lutheran churches that weren't really "Lutheran". Now, I am trying to remind and re-educate myself in theology. What I don't understand is how leaders who are supposed to be educated theologically don't understand the dangers of Ablaze and following outside "programs". I am just a ordinary lay person and I can see the danger crystal clear.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe it came about when Lutherans forgot that our joyful task is to prepare people to die the blessed death instead of vainly teaching them to live their best life now?"


For me, I keep coming back to Naamen, the Syrian leper. He was told to dip seven times in the Jordan and he would be healed, an act and attached to the act and attached to the act the promise of God; the act, when performed, by virtue of the promise, becomes a channel of blessing. How was the healing of God delivered, through the waters of the muddy Jordan. And what did Naamen say, "Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” What's the difference. God promised to act through the wasters of the Jordan. There is no promise attached to rivers of Babylon. There is no promise attached to the methods of church growth. And that is, it seems to me, the choice we have, the promise of God or the let us of men.

My mom is in failing health. What am I to tell her? If we look to who God is and what He has done in Christ, we can have peace. We look to what He has done in baptism. He cannot deny my mom without denying Himself.

Or shall I point her to this modern view which is justification by works. We are trading in the certainty of promise of God for a bowl of porridge.

Anonymous said...

The obvious problem with Ablaze! is in its allowing us to think we and God are of the same mind, when we're not even on the same page of the same book.
Ablaze! lets us think we are not what we are, poor and needy but made rich in His grace.
Instead, it lets us think we're not quite rich enough yet, but we're oh-so-close to the greater wealth if we only get with the program (or whatever Ablaze! is--is it a program? I forget), and get others to get with it too.
Ablaze! is born in and operates from our distrust of the gospel as it is. Ablaze! thinks the gospel is something other than the accomplishment--the done deal--of God. Ablaze! thinks the gospel is something God started and we must continue.
How Ablaze! ever hopes to finish this work is not clear. The fulfillment of it is something its literature doesn't make plain.
They've apparently not thought that part through. I won't wait for them to get back to me with that.
Susan R

rocky said...

What a wonbderful and insightful comment on the issues and how they should be seen. Makes me proud that Rev. Weedon was originally from Virginia -- a grace that will always stay with him.

Thanks also for the wonderful comments that have followed. They are encouraging and uplifting and make me very hopeful that we are on the track to righting this listing ship of the LC-MS.

My prayer is that we may all keep our eyes on the Cross throughout this and humbly follow the path laid before us.


L P Cruz said...

to prepare people to die the blessed death instead of vainly teaching them to live their best life now?

Can I hear an amen, somebody? Glory, halleujah, preach it brotha.