Half of February has passed with much that has kept me busy. Too busy to blog? Maybe, but I decided to take a break for a few weeks so that I could reassess what it is I’m trying to do here and how well I think I’m doing it. Nearly a month has passed and I have to say I’m no closer to answering either of those questions than I was when I stopped. That being the case I decided that it was time to begin again.
So much has happened in the days that have passed between then and now. However, last night brought to a close a chapter in my life. As I have made aware I once attended a seminary in St. Louis. Concordia Seminary is one of the two run by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and after spending two years there, I quit. I walked away dejected and hurt, angry and full of pain, a shell of what I was when I began back in 2008. Last night, I received a phone call informing me that my application for readmission to Concordia Seminary has been accepted and in the fall I will have the opportunity to go back. Yes, you read that right, I am going back to the place that broke me.
I suppose the question “why?” is flashing across your mind at this point. Why if it was so bad do you want to go back? Why bother? Why now? Why there? For those of you who may have been following this blog it might not be as much of a surprise as I have written somewhat concerning my journey thus far. While a full recounting of events would take too long, I feel as though I owe an explanation, albeit a brief one.
Having spent nearly two years at another seminary, one not affiliated with Lutheranism of any sort, I have come to the realization that within the fold of Lutheranism is where I belong, or rather, within Lutheranism I find my perspective. And, while there are a plethora of Lutheran perspectives, it is the perspective held by the Missouri Synod that I recognize to be my own. Interning at an ELCA congregation has been wonderful, but it has also shown me that we do differ. This came to a head last week when I attended a conference designed to explain the lenten lectionary readings so that pastors could better preach upon them.
Before I continue, I want to make it clear that I do have a deep respect for people within the ELCA regardless of how I critique the theology espoused by those within it. An example of the difference in perspective is in how we approach the historicity of the scriptures. During this conference one of the passages discussed was the flood, and while they rejected the historical reality of the event spoken of in Genesis four, they did find comfort in the promise of God not to do it again. What I find problematic is that the promise is not to do again something God admitted to doing. So, I ask you, what kind of promise is it when you promise not to do again something you never did in the first place? It would be like me promising never again to walk on the moon.
While this is only one example of how different we understand things, there are several I could pull from. This is not to say that I despise anyone who clings to a different approach, but, I am finally willing to admit that there are differences, and that these differences are significant. More and more I find that my perspective, the one I actually have as opposed to the one I am told to have, is in line with that of the Missouri Synod, so much so, that to deny my place within her would be to lie. For me, claiming to be a Lutheran, and more so, claiming to be a Missouri Synod Lutheran is more about being honest with myself and others as to where I stand than it is about condemning those who hold a different perspective.
While this is a great revelation for me and is helpful, it has compelled me to act. This is why I am going back, because I do want to be a pastor within the Missouri Synod, and I know I won’t have to compromise myself because it is the perspective I know I possess. This decision did not come lightly as there is so much baggage in my history with both being Lutheran and being a student at the sem in St. Louis. Only, together with my wife and many others, I have come to realize this is what I need. I need to be put in check and challenged. I need to be shaped and formed in the ways I resisted so long ago. Why? So that I can serve others better, because in the end, this is what it comes down to, not me but you.
It is easy, especially on a day like Valentines Day, to see the brokenness and hurting that runs rampant throughout the world. How many people are lonely and hurting this night and every other? How many people are being defined by their inadequacies and are paralyzed because of it? The answer to both is way too many. And while I recognize that I will never be able to stamp out the brokenness, I do know that I can still play a part, the part I know how to play.
Coming from a broken home I have been gifted with experiences that have shaped me and formed me to be sensitive to those who suffer, but unless I can enter into the brokenness of others, those experiences matter very little. In the end, what matters is not my brokenness, but the the brokenness of those around me. I know that my brokenness doesn’t define me. This is not about being arrogant and thinking that I have it all together, because I don’t. I struggle daily with my arrogance and condescending nature. I know of my deep brokenness and fears. But, these do not define me because my identity is found not in these things the world reminds me that I am, but in what Christ has claimed me to be, a beloved child of God.
It is that same Christ who has purchased and won me that has rescued the world from herself. It may sound corny or overdone, but the reality is, Christ is that which restores the brokenness. As the Church, we are to be the hands and feet of Christ, restoring the brokenness we see around us. Jamie Tworkowski once wrote, “We are only asked to love, to offer hope to the many hopeless. We don’t get to choose all the endings, but we are asked to play the rescuers. We won’t solve all mysteries and our hearts will certainly break in such a vulnerable life, but it is the best way. We were made to be lovers bold in broken places, pouring ourselves out again and again until we’re called home.” Being bold in broken places finds its fulfillment in both words and actions. Deeds that build up and words that heal. Words that bring Christ to bear on the life of one who is crying out. Words that connect Christ to this world. Words like these…