In the name of Jesus. Amen. Confessional Lutherans don’t smile. They don’t laugh. They hold your hands a certain way when they pray. They are serious – especially with youth. The more serious, the more confessional they are. Don’t you know?
When I was at seminary, one of my professors told me that I smiled too much to be a confessional Lutheran. Too much joy, must be a liberal. You know how confessionals are… they hide their smiles under the bushel…
I hold a bible when I teach. I have energy. I bounce and can be boisterous. Evangelicals are like that – they hold bibles and have lots of energy. I must be an evangelical.
In my parish, I bow during the Gloria Patri. I raise my hands during prayers. I make the sign of the cross. I chant. I wear a clerical everyday. Such things were foreign to my people when I arrived. “You know he must have learned those things as a Roman Catholic.”
There was a vicar at my parish that played a banjo with the youth. You know the guy. Sounds like a liberal with his hooky songs, doesn’t he?
Stereo-types. We’ve gotta get past them. We puff ourselves up by acting a certain way. We judge and dismiss. We have in mind how we think someone else should act and we super impose our judgement upon them. Our way is the right way, their way is the wrong way. They should teach a certain way, conduct the service a certain way, hold their hands the way we want them to. Or they should smile all the time, be full of energy, and wacky. Our way over their way. Their way is wrong. Why? Well, because it’s not the way we like it.
But, what about Jesus? What about the Father who created us? Who gave us our energy, or our smiles, or our seriousness. Who made us who we are to deliver the Gospel to those around us?
It’s time to set down the stereo-types. It’s time to stop giving “our” people a bit of slack and dismissing the people we don’t like. In fact, it’s time to stop dismissing those around us period – the teachers and preachers who have a different style than we have. Take the time to listen to their message. Is it Christ and Him crucified? Is the Law clearly proclaimed? Does the Gospel predominate?
Giving a guy a break because he’s with us is a romanizing tendency. It puts the authority on the person, not the Word. Whether they are a guy that we “like” or a guy that we “don’t.” What matters is the Word. Not who we hang with or what our name is.
Our “guy” may act differently than we expect. Their guy may too. The vicar who played a banjo at my church was Matt Harrison. He’s as confessional as confessional gets! Time to dismiss those stereo-types.
The Word. The Word. The Word. Reaching people with Jesus’ saving word. That’s what we should be about – all the time. If we look like evangelicals when we do it, so be it. If we look like Confessional Lutherans, then so be it. What matters most is the Word.
The problem with the Evangelicals is not that they walk around holding a leather bible. The problem is their doctrine! The problem with the Roman Catholic priest is not that they make the sign of the cross, it’s their doctrine!
St. Paul said it, “To the weak, I am weak to win the weak. I have become all things to all people to win some.” (1 Cor 9:22). For the sake of Jesus – any way possible. So that they might hear the forgiveness of sins achieved by Jesus on the Cross and delivered in the means of grace.
Full of joy for those who need joy. Full of seriousness for the serious. Weeping for those mourning. To deliver Jesus. To save someone – anyone. Not us doing it, but Jesus doing it through the words He gives us.
And if our “friends” don’t accept us, so be it. If we are too serious for them, so be it. Too full of joy, so be it. We do not answer to them, but to Jesus.
Dr. Nagel caught me after I presented once and commented on my joy, “The Reformed always want to be serious… The more serious, the more Christian. Yet, that sort of seriousness is of the Law. Luther… He say that when you are full of joy and happiness is usually of the Gospel!”
The Gospel! That’s the proclamation of Jesus crucified for you. All Jesus for you – whether delivered in seriousness, with hands folded, or with bubbling-over joy.
So… this little Gospel smile of mine… I’m gonna let it shine.. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.