A Glimpse Back To True Lutheranism
The Lutheranism practiced in America today is poverty-stricken compared to the Lutheranism of our forebears, the Lutheranism of the 16th and 17th centuries. That Lutheranism manifested the beauty of the Gospel not only by the Word and Sacrmaments; but by its art and architecture; its song, ceremony and celebration. For a glimpse into it see this clip of the boys' choir of the Roskilde cathedral in Denmark singing the Praetorius Lutheran Christmas Mass.
For the people who constructed, worshiped in, and maintained this cathedral their religion was not a social engagement that took place for an hour on Sunday mornings. It was complete dedication to the things of God! Their religion was not limited to a series of doctrinal propositions (however true and blessed); but by godly use of the arts their building proclaimed the Kingdom of God. It drew sinners to it, wherein they found God in Christ in Word and Sacrament.
What does this have to do with us?
Lutherans today need to return to the reservation. A cathedral such as this raises our vision. Raises the ecclesiastical bar. Raises humanity, and draws men to God. There is a little Puritan in each of us that wants to deny that this is the way things happen. We want to reason our way to God, and expect the world to do the same. But that's not how the Spirit works in the world. Men must come to where evangelism (the Gospel) occurs. The church. And God's mighty Spirit does not need our programs to make that happen. To this end I offer a small anecdote.
Our former sanctuary on West 43rd Street, with its massive steeple and larger than life stained-glass windows, towered over all the houses in the midst of a residential neighborhood. By the the time we left it the area had become a crime-ridden ghetto. Yet despite the drugs, assaults, burglaries, arson, rape and prostitution all about the building suffered no vandalism. I attribute that to one thing.
Though 99.9% of the neighborhood residents never stepped foot into the church, though few if any were baptized or ever heard the Lord's Prayer - even most hardened criminals recognized that this building represented something good. They could not tell you what to save their lives. But they knew it was good, and they loved that it was in their midst, and respected it. It kept the Almighty before them without uttering a single word.
There is currently a civil war taking place within Lutheranism. A war of pieties. There are those who think the sacred can be transmitted by the profane; and those who know that the sacred can only be transmitted by the sacred.
The links above give us a vision to strive for. They put something before our eyes that needs to be kept there. In the famous line of many WWII submarine movies: Up periscope! Let us raise our periscopes, and look at the world above.To the sun, above the dark waters we love to inhabit, where we can live unannoyed by the ways of God's church. (1 Corinthians 4:14-17) Repent! And believe the Gospel, Oh Lutherans!
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