[Caution: The following is an editorial, that is, an opinion piece. As such it has no points to prove or sources to cite, but seeks only to promote thought, and from thought, perhaps action. Some readers may find it somewhat acerbic and perhaps even caustic. Rest assured it is written in love and hope.
The other morning as I sat at my desk surrounded by the cold and inky darkness of the day's fifth hour, yet in the glow of two small candles on either side of a humble crucifix sitting on my desk, and finished up the last versicles of the Office at Prime, two musical tunes insinuated their way into my early morning devotions. One was a hymn, #462 in TLH (I never have memorized the hymn numbers in the new hymnal), "I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord." At the time I did not know why that particular hymn came to me at just that moment. It didn't seem to have much to do with the Scripture verses I had just read a few moments before, Luke 3:10-14. But there it was, the words appearing almost before my eyes in the heated vapors above the candles:
- "I love Thy kingdom, Lord,
The house of Thine abode,
The Church our blest Redeemer saved
With His own precious blood."
But then there came another tune, not so outwardly ecclesiastical, yet very familiar. It was a popular song of the 60's by the Beach Boys, "Be True to Your School." The opening words came to me now too:
- "When some loud braggart tries to put me down and says his school is great,
I tell him right away,
'Now what's the matter buddy, ain't you heard of my school?
It's number one is the state.'
So be true to your school . . . . "
Ah, then I remembered - that previous evening I had submitted my 2011 parish statistics to the synod offices. Could it be that I was taking just a tad of silly human pride in the accomplishments of my little parish over the previous year? After all, attendance did go up a bit - well, at least it didn't go down! And, besides the normally expected infant baptisms and child confirmations, there were those golden numbers, the most prized possession and the holy grail of stats among us Pastors - Adult Baptisms and Adult Confirmations! And, even though we showed a net loss in communicants for the year (that too is becoming the norm with most places), still, that's only because I was diligent in cutting out the "deadwood." Now, I felt like turning the lights and computer back off and hitting my knees for a healthy dose of repentance! Of this I was most surely guilty. Forgive me, dear Jesus!
But there is yet something else here among us - a pride not only in the individual parish figures at the end of the year, but a pride in our synod's purity and unity. A boast and a brag, almost as palatable as a "Lambeau Leap!" Alas, as our little blog itself has shown beyond any shadow of a doubt - perhaps simply by our mere existence if nothing else – such unity is no longer ours in the WELS. Yet, to even suggest this seems to be a great heresy. But why? And why haven't we been able to deal with what looks and sounds to many like aberrations in doctrine and practice in a number of places around the synod? Could it be a reluctance or even refusal to see and admit the problems? Could it be an immense hubris that assumes that all is well and right in WELS, and cannot and will not brook any thought or claim or even suggestion to the contrary?
It comes down to this – Are we so ready and willing to be "true to our school (synod)" that we don't love the Lord's kingdom as we need to, that we aren't and won't and can't carefully and prudently give our beloved church body the tough love it truly needs in a firm and timely manner? The answers to all these questions seem clear enough and quite evident to me. How about you? Perhaps more light in the coming year will help!