I Wonder if the Time Has Come

midnight clockIt’s been since October that I’ve had the chance to offer anything here at Steadfast Lutherans. With that, here’s what I’ve been pondering as of late…

I wonder if the time has come.

I know the mutual predilection for many of the worship debate’s contenders to plunge into what they would consider to be the only acceptable arena for examination – the broad water topic of “style” so unnaturally decoded by the term “Gospel freedom.” It is here that so many are diligently swimming against a riptide with the conviction that there is an eventual victory to be had. On one side there are those arguing first and foremost by way of Biblical and Confessional theology that worship is from God to Man. And on the other side there are those who attempt to use a similar vernacular (but most likely only so that they can actually participate in the discussion) and yet are diametrically opposed theologically, stirred to their cause primarily by the belief that worship is from Man to God, and if this is true, man must be free to offer to God whatever “worshipful” sensations may be most comfortable, relevant, and receivable at the time. Finally, in both camps, each is translated by the other as underpinned by a particularly disjointed history and hermeneutic, both sides having a firm suspicion that the other will remain unconvinced because of what is already perceived to be subjective reasoning wounded by partisan detail.

The discussion has gone nowhere, except perhaps, further out to sea.

I wonder if the time has come.

I know well the inherent fear of saying, “It must be this way.” In this day and age, there is most certainly to be a panic in the church when faced with a legalistic insistence, and perhaps, rightfully so. And I suppose at first it might seem contrary to the argument to consider Acts 15:5-11 as favorable for the case, listening to Judaizers before the Jerusalem council saying “It must be this way”, demanding that the Gentiles be subject to the Laws of Moses before a tolerated fellowship in the Christian faith can be found acceptable. And yet Saint Peter, not only an apostle, but a man like so many today holding seats of authority amidst councils, offers the better way with a courageous and intolerant “No!” when he so emphatically mandates as permissible only those Rites and Ceremonies that truly serve to support what God is doing for man. Peter’s intolerance was in place as a defense of the church’s chief doctrine.

I wonder if the time has come.

I know the intrinsic dread of being singed by the fiery accusation of intolerance, especially when what must be done and said communicates that perhaps one form of worship could actually and objectively be better than another for the welfare of the mortal and spiritual frame of Man. Who wants to hear and accept that his worship is a detriment to body and soul? And yet, do we not hear Saint Paul saying this to Christians in 1st Corinthians 11:17-22, speaking directly to the context of Rite and Ceremony occurring within the fellowship, showing his displeasure, scolding the gathered worshippers and iterating so plainly that what they were doing was more harmful than beneficial? And what follows? None other than a demand to retain what the Lord had first decreed. “It must be this way,” Jesus tells us. In this, Paul shouts “No more! You cannot do what you’ve been doing.” And not as a lord in the church, but as a servant of the Church’s Master for the sake of His Gospel – for the sake of preserving His chief doctrine. Effectively, the Corinthian potluck “Man to God” understanding of the Lord’s Supper was outlawed in order to retain the truth of “God to Man” located in the chief doctrine.

I wonder if the time has come.

I know the distinctive anxiety involved in deterring those whose first inclination of devotion is to seize the alien aura of God’s house in order to recalibrate and familiarize it to the flesh. And yet, has not this age old and immutable portrait already been painted? Consider the text of Ecclesiastes 5:1-3 with regard to our approach in the holy places. What is our role? Who is active and who is passive? Ponder the Lord’s words in Luke 18:9-14. Here in this parable, are we to discern only that “humility” is better than “haughtiness” and to disregard all of the surrounding detail of the story that Jesus has offered with great precision? Could it be that God is also intending for us to see what humility looks like in the midst of worship, how the muscle of the Holy Spirit shapes interaction with God? Take note that Jesus describes the humble and justified believer as careful. He describes him as employing bizarre ceremonies emanating that care. He prefers to speak uncommon rites, words which God has already so carefully provided. His posture is otherworldly. Haughtiness seeks the appearance and prestige of the world around it. It takes the stance of Pharaohs and Herods seeking admiration and dominion over what they believe are their kingdoms to rule. It seeks to move to the front, to put itself before the crowd. It prefers raised postures and eyes drawn first to the persona of Man and his exceptional offerings before reaching to God, the Giver. Perhaps further, we might consider that Jesus, as He speaks with the woman at the well in John 4:21-24 intends to communicate that the common anthropocentric practice we saw offered in the temple by the Pharisee in Luke 18 is unacceptable and will be brought to an end. Jesus is sure to tell us that the Father seeks a particular kind of worshipper. Did not Paul already say the same thing in 1st Corinthians 11:19 with regard to God’s good pleasure toward some and not others?

I wonder if the time has come.

I wonder if the time has come to veer from the riptide and say, “No, it is no longer to be discussed as a matter of style. It is a matter of pure doctrine. What you are doing cannot continue. It must be this way.”

I wonder if the time has come.

I wonder if the time has come for the authorities bound to the Norma Normans and the Norma Normata to simply and plainly acknowledge that God’s Word is unbroken in its revelation that holy worship, in a particular sense and as part of God’s eternal design, serves as an ascendant sentinel to disperse and dispel all traces of anthropocentric darkness. It is to be a preeminent guardian of the Doctrine of Justification, the chief article of the Christocentric faith. It is a royal member of the household for the article by which the church stands or falls.

I wonder, just wonder, if it is indeed time to say to the whole church, “It must be this way.”


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