Everyone capable of thanksgiving is capable of salvation and eternal joy.
Thank You, O Lord, for everyone and everything.
Great are You, O Lord, and marvelous are Your deeds, and no word is sufficient to celebrate Your miracles.
Lord, it is good to be here! Amen! – Fr Alexander Schmemann
Those words were spoken by the famous Orthodox priest and professor, Father Alexander Schmemann. They come from the last homily he gave before his falling asleep in the Lord in 1983. (It's a great, short homily. You can read it here.) Those words captured my attention a couple years ago when I became aware of them and they’re fitting now.
I’m thankful for everyone and everything during this season of transition, especially for my parents and my sister and her beautiful family, my grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins and dear friends, my pastors through the years, Sunday School teachers, college and seminary professors, and especially dear to me are the saints at St John’s Lutheran in Stringtown.
I could not in good conscience remain as a pastor in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS) and keep the vows I made at ordination to preach and teach in accord with the Lutheran Confessions, (For an explanation on what the Lutheran Confessions are go here.) but I shall never forget or cease giving thanks for the good people at Stringtown. Although I no longer travel in the LCMS, I think we are all still fellow travelers.
Although I came to ultimately reject certain teachings in the Lutheran Confessions it was a process that did not bring joy; I didn’t go looking for problems in the doctrinal position of the church body I grew up in. “For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.” (Ecclesiastes 1:18 ESV)
I took my study of the Lutheran Confessions very seriously as I prepared for the ministry. Initially there was discomfort with how little the life of the Missouri Synod today matches the standard set forth in the Confessions. While I found a few people and professors that were safe to bring up questions with, I mostly tried to quietly resolve the doctrinal questions that were building up.
I will give credit to several professors at university and seminary for trying to foster an environment where it was safe to ask questions that we were wondering about, but much of the time the LCMS felt like an unsafe place to ask the wrong question of the wrong person.
There are many wonderful, sincere, Christian people in the Lutheran Church, both pastors and lay people, who do a lot of good in the world and in their churches. For their efforts I continue to give thanks. The LCMS gave me a good foundation in that it taught me that God’s Word is true and trustworthy, that history matters, that doctrine matters, and that form of worship matters.
I learned things along the way to becoming a pastor that I didn’t know when I started on that road. I suppose that is the purpose of education, to learn things you didn’t know before. I didn’t go looking for a reason to leave Lutheranism for the Orthodox Church. Rather Orthodoxy found me. And despite numerous attempts to set it aside and focus on being Lutheran, things would always come up to remind me that the house that Luther built was falling down around me.
Orthodoxy is the fullness of the faith. The House established by Christ Himself. To say it is the fullness of the Church is not to say there’s nothing good in other churches, there is. Nor is it to say that Orthodoxy doesn’t have her problems, she does. She is full of sinners just as every other church body. What Orthodoxy does have is everything that Christ handed down to His Apostles – everything that Christ wants all of us to have. In this Faith there is fullness.
For that fullness I am eternally grateful. For the good I received as a Lutheran, I am eternally grateful. For my brothers and sisters in Christ from all denominations and backgrounds, I am eternally grateful. We’re still fellow travelers, my friends. Christ is in our midst. He is and ever shall be.
Thank You, O Lord!