Repentance is something the Lord means to be ongoing in the life of the Christian. But, repentance isn’t easy. Who wants to repent? Oh, we repent after eating too much at our Thanksgiving feasts, but that’s just our discomfort speaking. As soon as the pressure on the waist band subsides, we’re right back at it; left-over heaven!
Genuine repentance is different from wanting to be rid of discomfort so that we can get back to what put us in the discomfiture in the first place. Repentance is a gift from above. The Lord gives it in His Word, specifically, His Law – which reveals our love of sin and our hatred of God. It’s not very flattering to hear, is it? Maybe that’s why we have such a hard time with seasons like Advent or the Sundays leading up to it. All eyes are on the big shebang of Dec. 25! Who wants to repent? Who wants to die?
We did die, however! That’s the Gospel! We died in Christ, Who took our sins and suffered all they deserve! We died in Baptism and were raised in Christ, as He was. We still die – to sin and self and all evil – daily; and we daily emerge to arise and live before God in Christ and for our neighbor in love. We must even still go into the grave.
How shall we die this Advent season? How shall we die as individuals and as congregations of this Synod? Not by our strategies to self-preserve or self-indulge our desperate need to stave off that awful thing called death! It won’t be by forgetting who we are and trying to conform or adapt to the patterns of this world.
We have tried to swallow almost every trend that’s come along! Can’t you feel the pressure on the waistline? We’ve thrown open wide the gates – not so the King of Glory may come in – but so that something else may roam about!
Faithful pastors are dismissed unjustly from their calls. Many are neglected on CRM. District Presidents do not discipline wayward congregations. Unfaithful pastors have Carte Blanche, as long as what they’re doing “works.” Lay ministers make financial sense, and people like it. Women increasingly assist in worship and some urge women’s ordination. Open Communion is practiced, and very few want to say something or do anything about this. We are too afraid that it may kill us.
So, we tell ourselves that LCMS congregations which look less and less Lutheran are doing well because they are busting at the seams. We tell ourselves that pastors who are eager to consume the latest trend and fashion in order to capitalize on whatever this moth-ridden world is willing to flutter about aren’t doing our congregations any harm. Those same congregations learn many things – whatever the latest author, guru or transformational business is pushing – but they do not know the Catechism, Small or Large. They spend no time in the Confessions. They reflect what it means to be part of a fallen world, but reflect little of what it means to be faithfully Lutheran.
It’s time for Advent, people! ‘Tis the season to repent! That means the whole life of the Christian is one of dying to self . . . and Synod . . . and all the ways we’d like to shine and glitter before the eyes of a world that just wants to be soothed with visions of sugar plums.
We must learn to live instead from the cross!
No one wants that. It means death! It means admitting that we have let go of trusting Christ’s work through the Word and Sacraments. It means facing the fact that we are in fellowship together, but we are not walking together, and to the degree that we have let error enter and remain, we are in fellowship with error!
Must we admit that? Yes! Even if that brings a cross? Even if it means death? Yes! Who are we, anyway? What is the Missouri Synod? Nothing, if She and we are not dying and then rising again.
If you would like some help in dying to the mistaken notion that our Synod is not in need of repentance, please consider our ACELC website, with documents and studies and Overtures which address our errors. Yes, OUR errors! We are all in this together. Please don’t be afraid to face that truth, ugly as it is. For in dying – to sin and self and all evil delusions and desires to self-preserve, we arise to live before God in Christ Jesus!
Merry Advent repenting to us all!
Your Servants For Christ Sake,
Rev. Rick Sawyer
Co-Chairman, ACELC Board of Directors