St. Paul Lutheran Church, Hamel, Illinois dedicated its restored sanctuary on Sunday. It was devastated months ago by a fire in the church basement. The smoke from that fire ruined the sanctuary. (You can see some pictures of the restored sanctuary here on the blog of former St. Paul Pastor William Weedon.)
I learned of the dedication when Pastor Ben Ball sent out a message to the email list of the Northern Illinois Confessional Lutherans. He mentioned that the redo would be highlighted in LCMS communications. I emailed him back congratulations on the dedication and also mentioned that it is too bad that the LCMS would turn the story into a mercy thing.
I was just making an educated guess. Pastor Ball responded by saying that I was right. They are talking about using the event to highlight the smaller disaster relief things that the synod does since Hamel got a $25,000 grant from synod.
This is not a story about mercy. This is a story about the liturgy and is a golden opportunity for the synod to highlight how a country church, complete with a blue neon cross on its peak, learned of the church fathers and the historic liturgy through its former pastor and how that appreciation is being furthered by its current pastor and has been increased with the restoration of the sanctuary.
One of the new liturgical features of the restored sanctuary in Hamel is the baptismal font being placed in the center of the sanctuary. (You can see more of the liturgical aptness of the sanctuary in the photos noted above on Weedon’s blog.)
There is nothing wrong with mercy. However, the Divine Service is the delivery point, mercy is one of the many effects of the liturgy. The LCMS has plenty of mercy going on but it has the delivery point screwed up with rampant Methobapticostal practices in countless parishes.
Our synod leaders have chosen to lead with politics instead of theology. On a certain level that is understandable. The power given them by the synod is a political power. Like mercy, there is nothing wrong with politics. The problem is that our synod leaders also have the power of teaching the Gospel, openly. It is fine to use what political power one has but the teaching of what is right needs to be outpacing the politics.
Maybe this teaching is going on behind closed doors. I don’t know. Why are there closed doors in our synod? Why is this teaching not front and center? What is there to be ashamed of? What is there to lose, votes? If the synod is shown true doctrine and practice after teaching, teaching, teaching and it rejects such by a vote then the synod can have its votes. I will stick by the Gospel. But where is the teaching?
It is wrong for a pastor to start making wholesale changes in his parish when he first arrives. If change is needed, he needs to teach and teach and teach. I see lots of mercy being promoted but I don’t see lots of teaching going on. I understand that the president of the synod is president to everyone whether they have embraced the historic liturgy or not, but that does not mean that we should be silent on what is best for the Gospel.
The liturgy is best for the Gospel. Following the fads and teachers of evangelicalism is not good for the Gospel and this is going on all over our beloved synod.
Here’s to Pastors Weedon and Ball and all the other pastors in the LCMS who are doing the work in the parishes to promote the historic, Christ-centered liturgy. We look forward to the day when the synod leaders will also make this work front and center.