Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cross-Travels (1)

Perhaps the most fundamental question traditional-orthodox pastors and laity wrestle with now is whether or not to stay or go. At least for me that is my fundamental question with which I wrestle daily. Is the faithful thing to do, for the sake of the health of my soul and my family's, to stay and work to reform these decisions? Or is the more faithful thing to do leave and find a more familiar and yes, more comfortable home? I have to be honest with myself that option B, has been for me the leading response within my mind. As I told one colleague, "I do not want to spend the next 30 years of my ministry and life teaching against my own church body." I have no doubt that would ultimately be unhealthy for myself, my sanity, and my family. So surely the more comfortable, indeed more faithful response is to go, run, and not look back. In someways and at sometime that may be the right and faithful thing to do.

Yet those thoughts of fleeing for refuge have been temporary put on hold, by one of my favorite professors at Southern Seminary, Dr. David Yeago, in his paper "In the Aftermath." You can read it here at Dr. Michael Root's blog Lutherans Persisting. I think this paper has put forward, for me anyway, the best argument of why at least for now to stay put. Indeed it was in the wake of reading this paper and Dr. Root's blog that I created this blog. I'm not saying I've been completely convinced staying and fighting is the more faithful response, but certainly it has caused me, theologically and Christologically, to wrestle with staying.

Where does the Cross call us to be? For the Church, and all the people of God to possess the sacred cross means exactly what our emotions, comforts, and even sanity don't want it to mean. As Luther mentions the people of God will suffer, even persecution for the sake of standing firm upon the word of God and under the lordship of Jesus Christ. The cross of Christ tells us that we don't get to not suffer and still think of ourselves as disciples. And for those who like me believe the ELCA has made a grave err in departing from the tradition of the church catholic, then we know some of that pain and suffering in our hearts as we feel abandoned and left alone. Yet is the fullness of the cross that Jesus has called each of us to bear? Is this the full weight of the cross carried in our souls that we now can in good conscience, for the sake of that very cross, depart?

Not only does suffering, indeed possessing the cross include the feeling of abandonment, perhaps Jesus' words ring ever louder from the cross now, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me." Yet possessing the cross also includes suffering the nails, thorns, whips, and spear. Fortunately our Lord has spared us this physical suffering, and we only have words, thoughts, false teaching, and emotions to endure. As much as it wounds our hearts, minds, and senses it seems that the cross calls us to endure. Perhaps it even calls us to draw ever closer to those with whom we disagree and believe are in err, to love, admonish, and seek to correct for the sake of Christ, so long as it is possible to do so. If indeed the bound conscience doctrine of the social statement (Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust) allows us to do this. That is a question that must be addressed at another time.

I have been struck to the heart by Paul's words to the Corinthians, aptly titled under the section of my ESV Bible "The Ministry of the Apostles." Here Paul writes, "When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat (1 Cor. 4:12-13a)." Each act against the apostles (and the church) is a sign to draw ever closer. When reviled by the world, the apostles seek to bless. When persecuted, they remain firm in their position. When slandered, they draw ever closer and entreat of those who slander them. Is this the ministry of the cross? A true theology and mission of the cross? Not to head off to another church although the time may come for that, nor to only be bound in our conscience together, but rather bearing the cross move towards in love, not in teaching or doctrine that remains firm, patiently enduring the burdens of those we believe in err. Indeed the cross may call us to travel in directions we never imagined.

Closing prayer of Vespers (LBW):
Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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