9 most dangerous words

Ronald Reagan said that the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

We Lutherans chuckle. That Ronald Reagan. What did he know?

OBVIOUSLY the nine most terrifying words in the English language are from your pastor: “This is new to you but let’s try {insert subject X}.”

Making the sign of the cross. Bowing at the name of the Trinity. Incense. Fasting. Pick your poison.

Propose anything that smacks ever-so-lightly of Roman Catholicism, and we are on you, as we here on the farm say, like stink on cow poo, Preacher Man!

We’re Lutherans, after all. We’re of the Church of the Reformation. We don’t {insert subject X} here because Luther set us free from that. Fasting? Jesus died on the cross so I don’t have to. Making the sign of the cross? Helllloooo! Next thing you know you’ll be asking me to eat fish on Friday. Incense? Have you gone c-a-RAY-zy!? And enough of all that head bobbing and knee bending. You’re giving me a nervous twitch over here. 

But what if your pastor is really onto to something with all of this? What if–and I realize I’m going to break a limb jumping to conclusions one day–everything that happens in worship actually teaches something? What if your pastor isn’t trying to shove you out of Lutheranism into the arms of Rome? What if he’s just showing you some pious behaviors the Church has held dear for a long time? What then?

What if making the sign of the cross really does remind you of the sign of the cross made on you in your Baptism, of the way in which Christ has saved you from all the gunk and filth of this world?

What if bowing at the name of the Trinity really does show reverence and respect to the triune God?

What if fasting really is good outward preparation when it comes to repentance and confession, especially during this Lenten season?

What if incense really does symbolize our prayers, as we hear in LSB’s Evening Prayer: “Let my prayers rise before you as incense, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice”? And what if–perish the thought–the hymnal itself even encourages the use of incense, just one part of the multi-sensory way in which we worship?

But . . . but . . .

All of these actions are yours–free to do, free not to, free to try out, and free to wrestle with. But before you pitch a good old-fashioned fit in your pastor’s office, laying down on the floor and kicking and screaming to match any three-year-old, ask him questions first.

Ask him why he believes {insert subject X} is a healthy practice.

Ask him if the Church has historically done it and why.

Ask him what it means for you and where you can read more about it.

And then actually do read, do learn more, do go to him with more questions.

Then make up your mind.

Because whether you choose to making the sign of the cross or bow or take a deep breath of that incense or not, your pastor still will have been right: Everything that happens in worship teaches something.

And it turns out, no matter what conclusion you come to, it already has.





One thought on “9 most dangerous words

  1. Oh my goodness, how true. We’ve got alot of people in our church that have real knee jerk reactions to things like this…….I love the admonition to go ask why – explain the rationale….great post.

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