Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Trust Not in Princes

Sometimes it's an election for governor, senator, or President. Sometimes it's synodical politics. Whether in the church or in the world, we console ourselves after the loss of an election by singing Psalm 146: "Trust not in princes: they are but mortal. Earthborn they are and soon decay" (TLH 26).

What happens when your guy wins?

In amidst the rejoicing and the thanksgiving, we still ought to be singing, "Trust not in princes.... Trust ye in Christ, our God and Lord. Alleluia!"

I'm sure plenty of my girlfriends are reading this and shaking their heads and thinking, "There goes Susan again. Why does she have to keep saying this?"

I like Matt Harrison. I hope he will win the election for synodical president. But I don't expect him to save the synod. I don't expect him to "clean house." He is not the panacea for the LCMS. (Or, if you're from a different viewpoint, neither is he a threat to the LCMS.)

There is a reason some of us love Matt Harrison. When he talks, he talks about Jesus. He is a man who has been desperately in need of grace and who finds his joy and his life in the mercy of his Savior. It shows! This is a man who trusts in the Gospel with all his heart.

Thing is, by nature we trust in the law. Some are hoping for the balance of "power" to shift in the Missouri Synod. Some folks want things fixed. And the sooner the better.

But Matt Harrison is a man who knows his only authority --his only "power"-- as a pastor or as a synodical executive, is in the Word of God.

Sometimes we sinners don't like God's way of doing things. He hung out with tax collectors like Matthew. And demon-possessed prostitutes like Mary Magdalene. And lepers like Simon. And even pharisees like Nicodemus. And He loved that rich young man (John Mark) who came to Him pompous about his good works.

Sometimes we sinners don't like God's way of doing things. We want the law preached ... to THEM. To those guys who botched things up. To those guys who hurt us. To those folks out there. But God wants to preach the law to us. To me. He wants me to see my sin. He wants you to grieve over your sin. He wants to kill us so that He might restore us to life.

If Matt Harrison speaks with God's authority, he will speak the law to kill, not to "instruct" or "improve," and not just to "the other guy." And he will continue to bubble over with the good news of the forgiveness of sins. That's why we love him so much. But he may bring forgiveness and mercy to those that we think are unworthy of it, to those we think should not receive it.

This synod has not been "walking together" for decades. The divisions began before I was born. The first split happened when I was a kid. But the tensions continued to grow. The paths continued to diverge. The election of a president, or the saving of a college or seminary or a radio show, or the ouster of certain pastors --regardless of which Side you're on-- cannot be a quick fix. A year of marriage counseling cannot solve all the problems that have developed over twenty or thirty or forty years of marital difficulty. Things take time. Hearts seldom change overnight.

Do we want reconciliation? Or do we want control of synod's institutions, and punishment for those who disagree with us? The law (and the by-laws, and punishment, and threats) can "change things" much faster than can the gospel; anybody who's parented a two-year-old knows that. But that's Left-Hand Kingdom stuff. In the Church, the only kind of change that matters is the change that comes from the Gospel. We love Matt Harrison because he loves the gospel. If he is elected president, let us pray that we have patience as he slowly and mercifully does the work he has been given to do. Let us pray that our zeal for the law is trumped by our zeal for the gospel. Regardless of who wins the election, let us pray that we trust not in politics for our synod's help, but
penitent sinners for mercy crying,
pardon and peace from Him obtain.
Ever the wants of the poor supplying,
their faithful God He doth remain.


  1. Amen, Susan. Well said.

  2. Even more resounding and needed as we celebrate Pastor Harrison's election, thanks.