Finally Free

For 34 years AAL, then Thrivent for Lutherans, then Thrivent for Christians provided me with a desk diary each year, gratias, free of charge, on the arm, or maybe not. It was always in varying shades of red except in 2005. Then it was purple or if you’re hyper sensitive to church colors, violet. Well, now that they’re no longer picking the pockets of just Lutherans, now that they have the much greater pool of all Christians they no longer need to work Lutheran pastors, massage us, market us, sell us. And I say good riddance!

AAL, Lutheran Brotherhood, as well as all of their iterations, have been a bee in my bonnet, a sliver in my finger, a thorn in my side, a pain in my…well you know. When you first got to a parish they would descend on you with oily politeness. True sycophants. (Don’t look up the proposed origins of that word if you don’t want to really be offended.) They tried to wine me, dine me, bring me gifts, even flowers. I accepted only the Communion kit and cassette recorder they gave me at seminary. I wonder did they ever graduate to smartphones and iPads?

Of course, they always wanted my membership list, so they could “help” my people with their insurance needs. Aww, how thoughtful. I would reply: “Why should I give it to you and not State Farm?” I said the same when they wanted to make an appointment to visit me. “As a pastor of this congregation I have no need to visit with State Farm; how are you any different?”

As you can imagine, not one of these bootlicking, lickspittling, greasy serpents stayed in my congregation. One wouldn’t even continue to provide my confirmands with crosses once I said he could present them at the meal afterward but not in the divine service. Nope, it wouldn’t do to lose the imprimatur of the Divine on his insurance “ministry.” [By the way, this is why all those poets, eulogists, and loved ones insist on polluting the Divine Service in which a person is laid to rest with their personal thoughts about the deceased. The visitation beforehand or the meal afterward won’t do. The aroma of the divine is not attached to those.]

Well good riddance to Thrivent. May a millstone be tied around the necks of all those representatives who used their dollars, their influence, and their Madison Avenue salesmanship to water down genuine Lutheran theology, promote pan-Lutheranism, and sell physical things using spiritual tools.

I can’t remember who observed this, but you can tell a lot about a society by who keeps the public time. Time was first kept by churches, then by businesses (railroads), then by the State, and now it’s back to businesses (banks). Now the LCMS is keeping its own time. Almost. They, like the market-minded, money-driven Thrivent, have to insure the widest appeal. So, their Daily Diary is for LCMS, the WELS, and not only the ELCA but the Reformed. One wonders why, if they felt the need to recognize the last two, they couldn’t have given a shout out to the lowly ELS (Evangelical Lutheran Synod). No, upside there. Not enough pastors or people to sell, to market.

Having finally escaped the clutches of an insurance company that tainted us and would have compromised us completely in the name of service, ministry, helping, money, CPH could have put in a better edition of Luther’s Sacristy Prayer. It’s on page 10 of the Diary. I’ve never read this pusillanimous, watered-down version. “Send Your Holy Spirit that He may work with me to will and to do through Your divine strength according to Your good pleasure.” I think this is the “servant-leader” version. Compare that closing with the version I got from my vicarage congregation: “Use me as Thy instrument in Thy service, for if I am left to myself, I will certainly bring it all to destruction.”

Ain’t that the truth? And had I been left in the hands of a faithless “Lutheran” insurance company for many more years, I might have been destroyed rather than just oil-stained.

About Rev. Paul R. Harris

Ordained pastor of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
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