A Tale of Two Church Bodies . . .
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."
So wrote Dickens in the opening sentence of A Tale of Two Cities. The same could be said of recent history in the church. The Roman Church is just now coming to grips with it. So are we. Things seemed to be going so well for so long that the great demographic cliff was no where in sight. But now it is upon us. The reality is that it was always there. We were making it level by level with every decision not to procreate as intended by natural law and the teaching of the Scriptures. We were so excited by the freedom that technological advancement gave us (the Pill, IVF, contraception in general). We were so exited by what we could do, we never stopped to ask the question whether or not we should do them. But now we are. We are asking: How did this happen, how have we come to this place? Everyone is pointing fingers. Our Lutheran schools are closing. Our attendance in small and smaller churches is waning. The laity blame clergy. The clergy blame the laity. And the blame falls to both. The clergy have not taught as it should the unity of procreation and marriage. And the laity have not learned it. And both have not lived it. And in the words of Dr. Phil, "How is that working out for you?" Thus, the rise of divorce, children out of wedlock, co-habitation, pseudogamy, etc. Natural consequences impeach.
HERE is a recent article about one parish priest's experience. It is this article that prompted this post. Here is one gem:
Having grown up in the 60‘s and 70‘s with many “Don’t call me Father” Priests, I knew that the problem was a lack of orthodoxy. Twenty years ago when I was ordained, I thought that if I just preached the faith and celebrated a solemn Sunday Mass people would turn around. But, after twenty years, my experience is that a few parishioners will write letters to the Bishop, some will leave murmuring, but the standard fare is benign indifference. Instead of encountering joy and submission to the Natural Law and the Church’s teaching on human life and its dignity, I have found Catholic Christians either complacent or complicit with the Culture of Death. It was reported that over fifty percent of Catholics voted for a pro-abortion president who at a recent Texas Planned Parenthood convention asked God to bless them. If I have found any fruit, it has mostly come from home-schooling families.
I have become convinced that there is a connection, a direct correlation, between contracepting or sterilizing one’s fertility that parleys into an infertile relationship with Jesus, the Divine Bridegroom. In other words, mortal sin is the ultimate barrier method when it comes to God’s gift of grace being implanted within our souls. It is known that Jesus expects us to be faithful in small things before He will entrust us with larger issues. What is smaller and yet has the greatest value than bringing new life into the world? The realpolitik, the sitz im leben, the situation on the ground, is that reproductive dissent has reached and surpassed a critical mass. Whether we are talking within or outside the church, tacit support is given to the culture of death when we don’t support the Natural Law against all unnatural sexual actions. To wit, the arrogant aggrandizement of the state and Federal government under Obamacare and the HHS mandate over Catholic hospitals and educational institutions. Where will it end? (Cardinal George of Chicago has predicted that there may be no Catholic hospitals or colleges within two years.)If you FIND/REPLACE all the terms dealing with the Roman Church with terms specific to the LCMS, you have our current situation. It is sad. But we've built it. And now we must raze what we've built by going back to what we all know to be true in the natural law and the Scriptures, or be razed ourselves.
Gottesdienst is about liturgy. Its about keeping doctrine and practice together. Its about holding together what God has joined together. Its about enacting the Lord's Word with ceremony that confesses and teaches the Lord's Word, not only to others but also to ourselves. The ceremonies we do—the sign of the cross, genuflection, the elevation, etc.—reinforce in us what we ourselves believe about God. Not just what we confess about Him to others. And so these ceremonies teach us too. They are bodily reminders of what we believe, teach, and confess.
But this is not limited to the Divine Service on Sunday mornings. The Divine Service is bigger than that. The Divine Service encompasses the entire life of those served by God, who receive His gifts in Word and Sacrament. That Word is also imbedded in the world (Gen 1; John 1). And there are ceremonies in our lives in the world that do the same. They either reinforce what we believe about God or they don't. They either teach us to believe rightly or not. This is the case with procreation and contraception. This is the liturgy of our lives in this world lived from the Divine Liturgy. Let us in every aspect, in the liturgy of life and in the liturgy of the Divine Service, say the black and do the red. As we are blessed by Him in doing so in the Divine Service, so shall we be blessed by Him in doing so in life. What God has joined together, let man not separate.