Two years ago this past July a friend of mine opened her house to my granddaughter and me for a couple days. They were on their last leg of a trip to Europe. We were in town for a wedding and the Higher Things Conference. I was busy preparing a welcome home dinner for her when I suddenly had a tightening in my chest and pain in my right jaw. I did what any right thinking person would do. I called the expert, my husband. He advised me to wait it out. If it subsided quickly, all was well. It did, and I went on with my business.
Good thing, too. The timing was all wrong. We were several miles away from a hospital, and hundred miles away from home. I didn’t have time for any serious illness. Higher Things started the next day. I had a presentation to make. I had my granddaughter to care for.
During the next week I proved that all was well with me. I trekked that long walk up and down the hill from our lodging to the chapel services and any sessions, for meals, etc. I was just fine. Nothing even to mention to anyone, so I didn’t.
The Saturday before school opened that year the pain returned. This time John and I went so far as to drive to the hospital, only to decide not to do anything. Our reasoning was simple: I’d be in the hospital over the weekend. No tests would be done until Monday. I’d miss the first day of school. What would that accomplish? Besides, we could talk to a doctor friend in the congregation the next day. He’s a cardiac surgeon.
We did just that. He called me mid morning Monday at school and said I had an appointment with a cardiologist and I wasn’t to miss it. I didn’t. After an EKG the cardiologist wouldn’t let me go home. My heart had tried and might still try to have an attack. That’s just what it had done in July.
The next morning a simple procedure fixed things. He placed a stent in the partially blocked artery. Then he told me what I didn’t want to hear: change your lifestyle.
I don’t like bad news from doctors. I’ve heard it before. I heard it in 1993 when the doctor said, “Malignant? Oh, most definitely.” I don’t suppose he considered whether it was bad timing for me to hear that news or not. Maybe I was too busy with other things going on and didn’t have time for the radiation treatment, and the week long trip the Philadelphia away from my family to receive it. Maybe I didn’t want to be bothered with it at that time. “No thank you, doctor. I’ll deal with this another day. Cancer can wait for me.” Just like that heart attack could wait for my good timing instead of me seeking treatment for it while the warning signs were clearly there!
It's the Felix in us, who when confronted by the Word of God "about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment,"--things rightly exercised in and among the community of believers as per 1 Cor. 5:12-13--wants to exercise self-righteousness and control based upon his own personal desires and considerations instead. Felix responded to Paul: “Go away for the present, and when I find time, I will summon you” (Acts 24:25). Putting off medical care is breaking the First and Fifth Commandment. It does harm to ourselves. It is putting ourselves in the place of God, and not allowing others to fulfill their God-given vocations for our sakes. That is what we do when others call us to repentance and we say the timing is not right.
Timing, good timing, bad timing which timing? One of the criticisms leveled against the ACELC is that the timing of their Admonitions is poor, coming so soon after the election of Matt Harrison as president of the LC-MS.
What the ACELC is pointing out are those things that have become matters of unrepentant false practice that have not been admonished. Therefore they have become entrenched in the heart of synod as if they are good and salutary.
It wasn’t that long ago that a man passing through these parts inquired about our communion practice. When the Christ-ordained, church-honored practice of Closed Communion was explained to him, he refused to participate with us. His reasoning was simple: He could not in good conscience practice in one place what his home pastor did not teach and practice in another. He recognized there was no unity where there ought to be, and did not for himself cry peace where there was no peace.
So I ask: How soon is too soon to seek recovery from the illness that pervades our synod? How long is too long to ignore the illness that infests her?
Rather than unhinge ourselves on such peripheral piffle (such as timing), shouldn’t we instead be more mindful of the merits of what the ACELC is saying and doing?