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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Californication of the Church

Today, in about 2.5 hours, I'll be in the air on my way home to Fort Wayne. Back to snow and rain and drizzle after 5 days of glorious sunshine. Aaaahhh. Last night, on the phone I asked the resident 11 yr old boy how the weather was at home. And he said, "It's cold and wet and everything bad." Groovy.

I love California. You can find EVERYTHING in California. Good or evil. It is here, baby. Church-wise too. Some very outstanding Lutheran churches are in Southern California. Some of the best LCMS pastors and theologians I know live and work here. But this is also a place of much experimentation. Church-wise too.

SoCal folks tend to value innovation and creativity. They are optimistic and want to be happy. Following your heart is more important than doing your duty. It's all this doggone sunshine. It puts them into too much of a good mood. Drat! Church-wise too. So move away from tradition and form and heritage. Embrace the new, the novel, the entertaining. Forget about confession and absolution. What is there to confess? 'S all good. Stop judging. You be you and I'll be me, OK? Dump the repetitious liturgy and the laborious hymns with all those... those ... those words. Give us simple 7/11 songs to sing. 7 words sung in 11 stanzas. And doctrine? What's that? Sounds like doctor and that is scary, man. My karma just ran over your dogma, dude.

But most every error has a kernel of truth. Midwest Lutherans can be a bit gloomy at times. We drag ourselves through the Sunday liturgy like it's a dirge. But we do it RIGHT. We go up to Holy Communion like we're filing past a corpse.

Oh, I'm exaggerating , of course. Actually, it wouldn't kill us in the fly-over country to lighten up a bit. I don't mean water down the doctrine or eliminate tradition. I mean realize that joy is OK. It's alright to like going to church. It's not just an uncomfortable duty like having your teeth cleaned. Uh, Christ Jesus is alive. The Eucharist is the antidote to death. The Gospel is good news of free salvation. So keep your eyes down, mumble that 347 stanza hymn, and don't let anyone catch you smiling or laughing in the house of God.

I'm not suggesting the complete Californication of the Church. Plastic smiles. A veneer of sunshine induced euphoria. Hippy, boomer Churches that cater to felt needs and are market or fad driven will burst at the seams. But faithfulness is more important than success. A few more clouds would do them good. There are some things too wonderful to take lightly.

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