From the Disk of Pastor May 2010
Dear Friends in Christ,
One of the conflicts that develops in immigrant communities occurs between the first and second generation. Part of what happens is that the parents still speak their native tongue, but children are now just as comfortable in English. By the next generation very few even speak the native language. With the new language also comes a new culture with new ways and new values. Numerous books and movies have examined this theme, including the Rogers & Hammerstein musical “Flower Drum Song.” We have the same problem in the church. But in this case it is not a literal language that is lost. Rather, Lutheranism speaks with a distinctive language all its own. Part of what we are teaching when we instruct children for confirmation is how to speak the language of Lutheranism. The Small Catechism is our Lutheran language primer. Conservative/Traditional Anglicanism speaks a language that is recognizable to us - a close linguistic cousin. Even the language of Romanism has a familiar ring to it. Orthodoxy speaks a foreign language, but it has little influence on the American Christian landscape. But that influence is growing. It is Evangelicalism that speaks with the most radically foreign language of all. And that foreign language has had a great deal of influence, most of it bad.
The language of Lutheranism speaks factually and objectively. There is no concern with how anyone feels about Jesus or any emotional attachment one has with Jesus. The sole concern is what Christ has done for us. When one speaks as a Lutheran there is no talk of experiences. Experiences are of no consequence. Some have them, some don’t. It’s irrelevant. What is relevant is that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose victorious over death. It is because evangelicalism speak with a foreign language, that pastors don’t want people just running out to the local Christian bookstore and grabbing whatever off the shelf.
We see this most clearly expressed in hymns. The evangelical asks if you were there or advises you to go to dark Gethsemane. The Lutheran counters by saying: A Lamb goes uncomplaining forth, the guilt of sinners bearing. The evangelical says “Just as I am without one plea but that Thy blood was shed for me”. Notice here it starts by talking about me, not Christ. Anytime a hymn starts out talking about me, myself, and I it’s a bad sign. The Lutheran counters by saying: Salvation unto us has come by God’s free grace and favor.
This plays a very important part in the selection of hymns for a hymnal as well as the choice of hymns used week to week. Even those evangelical hymns which are doctrinally correct, such as ”Amazing Grace”, still speak a foreign language. And if all a congregation ever sings is emotive, evangelical hymns, they cease to recognize their mother tongue of Lutheranism. With this will come the deadly false doctrines of evangelicalism. Why is it that I keep getting asked to use that piece of heresy, “In the Garden”? It’s because for many of us this has become our native language. But “In the Garden” teaches us that we are sure of our salvation because we feel that Christ is with us. Anyone who believes this has stamped their ticket to hell. Lutheranism replies with what Holy Scripture clearly teaches. We are certain of our salvation because Christ has done it, Christ has promised it, and Christ has told us this in Holy Scripture. Lutheranism counters that we trust in Christ whether we feel that He is with us or whether we feel He is not with us. We as Lutherans say that Christ is with us regardless of what we feel. We can use those evangelical hymns which are doctrinally correct, but only occasionally, so that we do not forget our mother tongue, and with our mother tongue also forget the sound Word of God.
As Lutherans we must always be aware that we speak a distinctive language of our own. This is a precious thing. It must not be lost. Where it is lost, the truth of God’s Word and salvation by grace alone, is lost as well.
Rev. Jody R. Walter
Psalm 119:104-105 “Through your precepts I get under-standing; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”