The Grateful Christian

Essays, opinions, and works-in-progress by a conservative Lutheran pastor.

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Location: West Michigan, United States

In order of importance, I am a: Husband, father, pastor, hobby programmer, writer. Thoughts are but coins. Let me not trust instead
Of Thee, their thin-worn image of Thy head.

--C.S.Lewis, The Apologist's Evening Prayer

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Communicable Again

Vacation's over, web site has been moved to a new host, email is working again, and I just got back from the District Convention that happens every three years. It featured awesome worship services from the forthcoming Lutheran Service Book. When you have some 800 plus people singing in the Chapel of the Holy Trinity at Concordia University in Ann Arbor Michigan, it's hard not to feel awe.

This morning began, as is traditional, with a memorial service for the pastors and teachers who died in the last triennium.

So, we're singing "The Church's One Foundation," and we come to verse three:
Though with a scornful wonder
The world sees her opprest,
By schisms rent asunder,
By heresies distressed,
Yet saints their watch are keeping,
Their cry goes up, "How long?"
And soon the night of weeping
Shall be the morn of song.


The organ is doing this weird, sinister, dissonant thing with the accompaniment all the while: a musical expression of sundering schisms and heretical stress. It continues for a bit, even after we have finished the verse, then the women in the choir start repeating a high, rhythmic sound. What is that? What are they saying?--"not now, not now"? (I flash for a moment on Augustine hearing a child's voice at play, singsong Tolle, lege! Tolle, lege!) No, that's not it--it suddenly comes clear--they're chanting, "How long? How long?"

Suddenly I see with John the Revelator (Rev. 6:9ff) the souls of slain witnesses to Jesus, crying out to Him for surcease, asking this pained question. They are handed a white robe and told to wait a little longer. A few more Christians must be killed. Hang in there. The justice day is coming.

At that point I lost it. (Well, almost. I managed to keep my weeping to a pretty quiet trickle.) All the frustrations and joys that have been battling in my breast during the last few days--mostly reflecting with dissatisfaction on my faithfulness, and projecting that as cynicism about much that my church is doing--came boiling to the surface in a hot moment of unbearable pity for the Bride of Christ, and the things she must suffer for now. Mixed with that was awe and gratitude at God's grace in making me a part of her. Gratitude for the promise that soon the night of weeping/Shall be the morn of song.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus!