Here we are rapidly approaching 2010. Our synod faces critical changes in structure and governance, and budget shortfalls that are beyond the comprehension of most of the members of our churches. When all is said and done I believe the heart of our (LCMS) troubles still lie in worship practice. The competing factors are pulling the church in multiple directions and I fear that the only thing left for Missouri is the the birth of multiple tiny groups of churches that will refuse to be in fellowship with each other. Maybe it is the only solution left to us. The coming year, I believe, will see the determination of these issues.
But I hold out hope for the Missouri Synod. After all it is the synod of my birth. We are at our heart traditional, liturgical, practical and faithful to the Lutheran Confessions. At our heart we confess the faith of our fathers. (In spite of some who insist that this isn't our grand-father's church see "Through the Ages . . ." http://www.lcms.org/pages/wPage.asp?ContentID=418&IssueID=27) At our heart we know that all worship must find its center in Jesus Christ Crucified for the forgiveness of sins. We know the best way to worship is to speak, sing and chant the same texts as the faithful church has done over generations. At our heart we bring the Word of God to the world from our unique (Biblical!) law and Gospel perspective. At our heart we revel in the confession of the faith that has been handed down to us in the Lutheran Confessions. On the surface is the foolishness described by Phillip Magness in an article by Terry Mattingly (Mattingly and the Lutheran Worship Wars http://www.scrippsnews.com/content/mattingly-lutherans-and-worship-wars)
"What I found out is that we're a lot like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates," he said. "It says 'Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod' on the sign, but when you go inside you have no idea what you're going to get. ... Some of our churches are playing with the structure of the liturgy and some are playing with the content and our whole synod is trying to find out how to draw some boundaries."
As one pastor in the synod has said, "Now is the time for Confessional Lutheranism." The world is unsettled and unstable. People are looking for stability. The message of God's great love for sinful people shown chiefly in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross is the message we have. It is the message the world needs to hear and see. What we need to show is a traditional, liturgical, practical, confessional worshipping community that clearly and uniformly presents Christ. The best way to do that is the way the faithful church has done it: Word and Sacrament administered according to Christ's command; Hymns, songs and spiritual songs that clearly confess God's work for us in Jesus Christ; Preaching the law in its full force to crush the hearts of the faithful as well as the unbeliever AND the Gospel in its full force to sooth broken hearts with the comfort of Jesus Christ. there is no church body that can do all these things at the same time as well as the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod. God grant it for Jesus Sake.
Pastor Jonathan C. Watt
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church