The Best Part of the Convention
I was a first-time delegate in Tampa. I’m familiar with the tediousness of parliamentary debate, and it is mentally exhausting - but necessary in a polity like ours.
There was much to be happy about regarding this synod convention.
The synod has spoken rather forcefully about the direction it wants to go. Congregations Matter candidates were generally rejected by sizable margins. The more conservative, confessional, traditional, and liturgical candidates generally prevailed by solid majorities.
The Gottesdienst booth was a roaring success, as an unbelievable number of people signed up for more information. Our books and merchandise sold out quickly.
We had an overflowing crowd at our Gottesdienst Get Together held at the Four Green Fields Irish pub. The entire bar was wall to wall Gottesdiensters. It truly was a Gottesdienst Crowd, and great fellowship continued for hours!
Personally, I was able to reconnect with classmates, colleagues in the ministry, professors, and faithful lay Christians from around the world. I met many new friends and brothers and sisters in Christ (including a couple of our bloggers whom I had not met in person), and am humbled and encouraged by their Christian witness in a time of cultural decay and chaos.
But to me, the highlight was an unexpected encounter just after the final gavel fell.
A delegate ran up to me to shake my hand as I was leaving the hall. He had tears in his eyes. He thanked me because some time back, he attended a Divine Service over which I presided. He told me that he had never seen the elevation of the elements in the liturgy before. He said that this was life-changing and drove home the reality that the Lord is truly present in the elements.
That brief conversation, for me, trumped the elections, the joyful reunions, the new friends, and the strong resolutions passed by the synod to confess faithfulness to Bible and the Book of Concord. For that one moment was a powerful personal affirmation of how important our work is to restore the richness of our liturgical tradition that has been eroded by rationalism, Pietism, Gnosticism, and encroachments upon our faith both from other denominations and from the secular world.
What we confess in our words is of crucial importance. But how we confess those words is also important. It is not only what we say, but what we do, that matters. Yes, we read the black and we do the red. And our Black and Red confessions work in tandem to preach the Word, as St. Paul exhorts us in 1 Tim 4:1-5:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
This is what Gottesdienst is all about. For all of the snark that stereotypes us as effete chancel-prancers or historical romanticists; for all of the talk that we are a political party or seek to dominate the laity - the reality is both far less exciting and far more dramatic: our mission is to preach and teach the faith, to bring people into eternal communion with the Most Holy Trinity, to be the unworthy means through which Christ physically manifests Himself in the midst of His Bride to deliver forgiveness, life, and salvation. This simply cannot be done flippantly, irreverently, or with entertainment as the goal. We offer nothing new, but rather stand on the shoulders of our fathers.
So to my fellow editors, take heart. What we do matters. We are the real Congregations Matter, because congregations are people gathered around the pulpit, font, and altar to participate in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. To our readers and supporters, please continue your support in whatever form or forms that may take; for you make a difference and you are instrumental in our being able to carry out this work. To our lay members around the country and the world, help us to hold fast to what the Lord and the apostles have bequeathed to us as an unbroken testament until He returns. To our pastors, do not grow weary. Christ is with you in good times and bad, and whether you hear it or not, your work (which is actually Christ’s work) makes a difference. An eternal difference.
Leitourgia Divina adiaphora non est!