At the end of the last blog I wrote, “Many young people today take the attitude of a character on a popular sitcom.
“ I don’t object to the concept of a deity, but I’m baffled by the notion of one that takes attendance.” Parents are not much better with their constant appeals to the clergy that their “children have faith, they just don’t come to church”. Yet it is in the church that the public confession is most visible and heard so that the confession can go outward from the local congregation. We are gifted in the church to be gifts and be strengthened to “do” for others. The generation that “has faith but doesn’t come to church”, is also the generation that is silent about whatever faith it has. If it is not silent the confession made is usually shallow and sometimes Biblically incorrect.
One of the problems may be that we have lost something extremely important in our understanding of confession – confession means to speak back to God what he has spoken to us; to “not be ashamed of the Gospel; to witness like John the Baptizer does in John chapter 1, and to do so with the “end of the age in mind”. What I mean by that is that our witness, confession, testimony, is meant so that others “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God and that by believing they might have life in His name.” The Lutheran Confessors believed that their confession at Speyer that we talked about before, where they wore the motto “verbum dei manet aeternum” on their swords and livery, had to do with eternal life. They said, “in matters concerning the honor of God and the salvation and bliss of our souls, each [imperial estate] must stand by itself before God and render account [Rom 14:12], so that no one can use the actions and decisions of a minority or a majority to excuse himself.”
At the end of the Augsburg Confession we read these words. “May it please your imperial majesty to graciously consider that these matters do not concern temporal goods, land, or people, but the eternal salvation or damnation of souls and consciences; and God will demand that we render an account in the Last Judgment of our conduct in these matters.”
There are eternal consequences to our confession or lack of same. As Oswald Bayer has written, “the fundamental matter at stake is that consciences are sharpened by the law and comforted by the gospel in view of the Last Judgment. The immediate counterpart to this forum before God is the public confession before the world: “Everyone who confesses me before men, I also will confess before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father in heaven” (Mt 10:32f.) It is before this double forum that Luther makes his great confession of 1528 (Here I stand!). Since God’s word of comfort remains forever and is therefore the criterion par excellence, responsibility for it must be exercised also in the political sphere and public square.
There are eternal consequences to the confession that you make by going or not going to church. You don’t merit or earn anything but you are making a confession. As a deaf women said to her friend who asked her why she went to church since she couldn’t hear anything that was going on and the church could not afford a signer – “I want to show everyone whose side I am on”!