That picture is C>F>W> Walther the first President of the LCMS. There was a joke going around about the fact that this isn’t your grandfathers church anymore. I found this little article in my files somewhere and have no idea who wrote it. It is about Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
“Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian who opposed the state-controlled German Evangelical Church under Adolf Hitler. He and others founded the Confessing Church which became the center of German Protestant resistance to the Nazi regime. Bonhoeffer was a leading spokesman of the new church.”
“Bonhoeffer was eventually hanged at the Nazi concentration camp at Flossenbürg on April 9, 1945 only a few days before the end of the war. He was 39 years old.”
“Because of the experience he had as a a Pastor during the lead up to the war, and during the war itself, Bonhoeffer saw a time coming in which religion would prove to be fundamentally irrelevant.”
“We are moving towards a completely religionless time; people as they are now simply cannot be religious anymore. Even those who honestly describe themselves as ‘religious’ do not in the least act up to it, and so they presumably mean something quite different by ‘religious’…
“What bothered Bonhoeffer was – How is it possible that the practice of Christianity can become divorced from loving our neighbors in any real sense? How is it that religious practice—including word and sacrament—can leave a person ultimately unchanged at the core of his or her being? Typical Christian religious practice does not guarantee a transformation of the heart nor does it necessarily provide a personal experience with God. For many Christians, religion is a “secondhand” experience, simply passed on by family, culture and tradition.”
I think that this is what we are going through today. I am the result of a generation that grew from parents who wanted us to have everything. They also made a fundamental error and I believe it was giving us loss of responsiblity, not only for our actions or inaction but for our faith. We have raised up generations who now believe that the “faith of our Father’s” will save them even though they have no practical connection with it. We have large numbers of people who want to be on church roles but have no intention to come to church. We have extravagant Baptism parties for children whose parents have no intention to raise them in the fear and admonition of the Lord. We have funerals where grown children of the deceased will talk about the great faith of their father/mother, but will not set foot in the church again. We have aging parents trying desperately to tell their Pastors that there children “have faith in Christ” – they just don’t like His Body, the Church. We also have those same folks saying things like, “it doesn’t really matter what they believe as long as they believe something”. We have folks that do come to church and as Bonhoeffer says they are “ultimately unchanged at the core of (their) being.”
These are interesting times, no less than Bonhoeffer’s times were. We enter the season of Lent this week to journey with Jesus to the cross where he will bear the sins of the whole world and take them away. He goes to that cross because “God so loved the world He sent His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”. He died so we would not “perish” because of our sin. We don’t do anything. We don’t contribute to that salvation. The only thing we need to “do” is acknowledge the sin that Christ came to die for.
For those brought into this world since Bonhoeffer’s time and who have never had to be responsible for anything, and who have never been held responsible for anything, that may be impossible. If it can be done, this Lenten season might be a time to try and say that simple prayer of a tax collector – “God be merciful to me a sinner”. If you are like a lot of the people I talk to everyday and don’t know what sin is you might want to consult a Bible and there you will find a simple formula; “sin = breaking the Law”. If you don’t know what the Law is, it is called the “10 Commandments”. Please note they are called commandments and not suggestions. They used to be posted in schools and courthouses all across this land but since that doesn’t happen much any more you can always “google” it.
Christ Jesus came to save sinners.