August 27, 2014
The discussion in the study group I meet with on Wednesday mornings took a reflective turn today. As many Christians tend to do, we began discussing the decline of faith in today’s world. There are less and less attending worship regularly, fewer who claim to be believers of God, and in general, at least mainline denominational congregations are shrinking in numbers and members. What is happening? What do we do? How do we remain faithful and hopeful?
As many do, we sometimes wring our hands and lament. People want to hear all will be okay, and that there is a simple solution. Many will try to tell us what to do. Many will claim to have the correct way. Just do this or that, act in this or that way, and all will be well.
One of the things I embrace about the Lutheran denomination is the encouragement to discover the Spirit’s will and way on our own. What I mean is that we are encouraged to learn and read and pray and seek on our own. It is important that we help others learn how to discover for themselves about God, encouraging and empowering them to do so, instead of spoon-feeding or leading by rote.
Certainly there is a rich Lutheran tradition of liturgy and routine, yet at the core is God’s love, grace and mercy. And that cannot be easily contained or boxed in or taught in black and white. God’s love, grace and mercy is transforming and challenging, somewhat tailored, in a way, for each person. In other words, there is much grey area and much less black and white do’s and don’ts. Which sometimes makes things hard, yet ultimately freeing.
Lutherans thrive in a world of tensions. Sinner and saint. Bound and free. Law and gospel. Many times when asked a question that has a choice of answers between this and that, my answer is yes to both. It can seem wishy-washy and indecisive, yet it also means dependence on God and God’s grace instead of my own determination of right or wrong, sin or not, good or bad.
Does that mean I make mistakes? Certainly. Yet, that is where God’s forgiveness and grace abound, and let me say I rely on that deeply. Because, in the end, it’s all about God and what God did for me and you through Jesus Christ. That is what really matters. Thanks be to God.