Monday, May 9, 2011

FW: Resonating Chords...

And Lutheranism…


Feed: Pastoral Meanderings
Posted on: Thursday, May 05, 2011 6:17 AM
Author: (Pastor Peters)
Subject: Resonating Chords...


Rod Dreher writes of his family's journey from Roman Catholicism to Orthodoxy (the Eastern kind) in a moving account in a piece in the Washington Post which you can read here.   While there might be a few things I could quibble with, his estimation of the "wars" going on with Roman Catholicism resonate with my own perception, albeit mine from a distance.  I have often said that those who swim the Tiber (or as one wag has suggested, "they have bridges you can cross"), it is often an exchange of different battles within much the same war as you might face within, say, Lutheranism.

I did resonate with some of what he said in the dramatic difference between Orthodoxy and the other Christian religions in America that seem far too at home with American culture and all too willing to defer to the popular conceptions of what religion is or should be.  He wrote:

Because of that, for all its dramatic beauty and rich feasting, Orthodoxy is far more austere and demanding than most American Christianity. The long liturgies, the frequent prayers, the intense fasts – all make serious demands on the believer, especially comfortable middle-class Americans like me. They call us out of ourselves, and to repentance. Orthodoxy is not interested in making you feel comfortable in your sins. It wants nothing less than for you to be a saint.

I might have put it a different way but I get his point.  Orthodoxy is not austere in terms of the building or the liturgy -- both of which are canvases painted richly in words, chant, and images (icons).  In fact, I can think of no other sacred space as well ornamented as the sacred space in a typical Orthodox church.  But the austerity is one in which the images of the world around us must fade and be replaced with the other worldly images of the Church, the heavenly Bride here on earth, and the anticipated Marriage Supper of the Lamb in His kingdom without end.  Unlike so many modern buildings in which nature is the artwork and broad expanses of clear glass offer an unrestricted view of that natural picture (or, in most cases, natural highways, neighborhoods, and even businesses and shopping areas), the Orthodox close off the view of the world in which we live that we might glimpse the world in which we are made citizens through baptism.

He is absolutely right in that Orthodoxy seems little concerned about the fact that their worship settings and services are absent the big screens, PowerPoint presentations, praise bands, contemporary sounding music, cup holders in the pews (or pews, for that matter), and "mall atmosphere" which seem to dominate the Christianity of so many different denominations.  They do make serious demands upon those who would enter such sacred space in which time seems much at a stand still and the clock an intrusion.  I especially like the phrase "they call us out of ourselves..."  In this, Lutherans should have much to identify with for the Divine Service attempts to do the very same -- top call us out of ourselves that we might become what God has declared us to be in our baptism.  If Lutherans are true to their identity and heritage, they, too, are uninterested in making you feel comfortable in your sins and, instead, seek to make you comfortable as the baptismal saint God has called you to be through water and the Word.

It's common among American converts to hear that men were first attracted to Orthodoxy, and their wives followed. It's not hard to see why. Many men are tired of a soft, bourgeois Christianity that doesn't call them to much because it doesn't ask much of them.

This is, perhaps, a brief paragraph form of what I was trying to say in my piece on the feminization (or emasculation) of the faith, worship, and the Church.  Christianity has become a soft religion in which the hard subjects of sin and sinful desire are left untouched and people are left with little but their feelings.  Solid, objective, eternal truth has been far too absent from the preaching, teaching, and worship of our Churches and it has begun to show.  Too many Christian churches are like an hour with Oprah on her couch instead time suspended to stand on the holy ground where God comes with power and mercy, might and love, a call to repentance and grace to make it possible.  This is exactly the problem when the Church seeks to affirm instead of call out -- and what a good job we have been doing "affirming" our people to death in their consumerism, captivity to desire, glorification of things temporal, and distance from things eternal.

My heart does actually have great fondness for Orthodoxy and yet I fear I am way too Lutheran and way too Western to actually go there.  I have enjoyed some brief but rich visits.  I have many CDs of Orthodox chant.  I read the fathers of the Church (especially those prior to the schism).  I am surrounded by icons in my office.  But just as someone no less attracted to the East departed this life listening to Bach (Jaroslav Pelikan), my own Christian heart is fixed and focused from the perspective of Lutheran confession and liturgical (and musical) practice.  Nevertheless, I feel that Mr. Dreher and I speak much the same language.  I wonder what choice he might have made if the Lutheranism of today looked more like the Lutheranism of Bach's day and the church and city where he served?  And, just maybe, that is the Lutheran side of this whole problem.

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