Thursday, January 17, 2008

Being the Best You Can Be

Driving in the dark through North Central Illinois, Marjorie and I had a heart to heart. She confessed that she hadn't always been doing her best in a few of her volunteer positions outside of church. I confessed that at times I knew I wasn't doing all that I could as a pastor, for various reasons. We both admitted that some of this is part of the normal human condition, that there is always more to do, and more to do better. But sloth and complacency must be resisted. So we both agreed that our motto (not resolution) for 2008 will be "Stop making excuses, get off your heiney and do the best you can." It's a good motto, covering lots of ground, professionally and personally. Under this umbrella, I can call on members more frequently, add my niece's birthdays to my Treo, putz around the house, pick up Wheelock's Latin Grammar again, and so on. So far I've noticed a difference in my attitude and efficiency.

While on vacation, Weedon's Blog had a rip-roaring discussion about forensic justification, with an incredible 163 comments to date. I didn't read them all (that's crazy) but near the end I noticed a few comments by the lightning-rod (and friend) Fr. Gregory Hogg. He wrote,

To my Lutheran friends: try to be the best Lutherans you can be. Try to live as if the body described in the Lutheran confessional writings actually existed where you are. Rebuke in your midst, for example, the errors it rejects--not in bombastic posts on anonymous blogs, but by following the procedures agreed to in your midst. Live as if pastors had the right to excommunicate. Press forward in the appropriate way with those who practice lay absolution etc. (find it here)
I was reminded of Fr. Benjamin Harju's (LCMS) post "You Will Know a Tree by Its Fruit." He wrote in part (the whole essay deserves a read or two):
The times call for a sincere and emphatic call to rally around Lutheran spirituality. It is not enough to cry out "Scripture alone as confessed in the Book of Concord!" We must cry out with our deeds. We must unapologetically expect our fellow pastors at the circuit level, our elected district representatives, and even our entire synodical bureaucracy to live out this spirituality.
"Be the best Lutheran you can be," and both the ex- and present LCMS pastors say, "See where this takes you." What's depressing is that one is certain it fails, and the other isn't sure what will happen.

I think we who are Lutheran can be certain that God has placed us in our congregations and vocations for His purpose. We can be certain that God desires us to live faithfully and to grow. We can be certain that our Christian lives ought to be done to the glory of God, which demands all. While the parable of the talents is often quoted at this point, what may apply more directly is: "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able," (Luke 13:24) and, "whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy -- meditate on these things" (Philippians 4:8).

Lutherans tend to be minimalists when it comes to our faith and practice. But "doing your best," implies maximalism--living maximally as a Lutheran (or whatever your confession is), not seeking the lowest common denominator, nor the minimum of what the Christian faith is, not rejecting tradition qua tradition, but embracing the fullness of what it means to be a Lutheran pastor, chemist, student, retail employee or what have you.

Do the following:

1. Pray. Pray more and more regularly. Pray at the set times of the day: morning, noon, and night. I don't mean a minimal prayer, but a maximal prayer: like the hours of the day, or at least the brief services contained in Lutheran Service Book. If you want more, acquire a copy of the Brotherhood Prayer Book or The Monastic Diurnal and use them. What, you say? Too catholic? Too...pious? Too...fanatic to pray like this? Yes it is, and more. It is also too faithful, too strong, too powerful, too watchful. Maximize.

2. Educate yourself. Read Christian literature. Like St. Augustine's Confessions and G. K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis and the Sermons of St. John Chrysostom and The Brothers Karamazov and other literature by Christians. Read the Book of Concord and find out exactly what it means to be a Lutheran.

3. Remind yourself of the hobby or talent you once enjoyed but dropped. Start it again. You ask what this has to do with Christian living and "being the best Lutheran you can be?" God gave you all your abilities. Use them to His glory.

4. Attend every worship service your congregation offers. If you are laity, ask your pastor to offer more and to post times of private confession. Help him be the best Lutheran he can be.

See where this takes you. I imagine that some may realize they're not Lutheran after all or don't want to be. Some may become "more Lutheran." Some may re-direct their lives. But if we receive the Sacraments more often (see #4), are immersed in the Word more (see #1), pray more, edify ourselves more and so forth, you will be blessed regardless of where God leads you.

6 comments :

  1. Rev. Eric J Brown said...

    Just last week I returned to my custom of praying an abbreviated Matins in the morning (tend not to sing the Te Deum or various Hymns when by myself) - and it has been very good for me. There have been strange stressors this week, very frustrating stressors, and it has definitely helped calm and center me, a great blessing.

    We have a tendency as Americans to look to huge projects and massive plans to improve things - we don't think of simple habits. They aren't flashy enough - ah, a feel a post of my own coming on.

  2. -C said...

    Wonderful post, Pr. Hall.

    Thanks.

  3. Christopher D. Hall said...

    Glory to God, -C.

    And thank you for reading and kindly commenting!

  4. Doorman-Priest said...

    Working on it, Christopher. Working on it.

  5. Rev. Benjamin Harju said...

    Ah, I can hear the antinomians screeching like the Wicked Witch of the West melting away into oblivion. Your counsel does not sit well with the "how much can I get away with" mentality we all have within us. God be praised!

  6. Christopher D. Hall said...

    ...assuming that antinomians read this blog...:)

    And as I admitted in the post, part of the motivation for this post came from you, Pr. Harju.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!