Arguing with Father EmilJun 18th, 2008 | By Ian Poulton | Category: Ministry
It is cold and wet and it is miserable and thoughts of Lake Wobegon come to minds.
This blog visited Lake Wobegon last year, it should be a compulsory journey for anyone in pastoral ministry. Listening to Garrison Keillor’s News from Lake Wobegon on the Prairie Home Companion offers more sound advice than our professor ever did.
Garrison Keillor has created a wonderful society set around the imaginary town of Lake Wobegon in central Minnesota. Lake Wobegon is populated by Catholics of German descent and Lutherans of Norwegian descent. Lake Wobegon’s name is said to come from a native American word meaning “we waited all day for you in the rain”. The town has a population of 942 (it’s probably gone up, or maybe down, since I last checked) and its life revolves around the two churches: Lake Wobegon Lutheran and the Catholic Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility, where the Parish Priest was Father Emil.
It is Father Emil that came to mind as I prepared for a funeral, something he once said, years ago.
Father Emil retired maybe twenty years ago, the last I read about him he was in a retirement home. When he was retiring from the parish, one of the town’s Lutherans suggested to him that he would make a good Lutheran pastor if he was looking for something to do. I remember Keillor reading the story himself in a deep Midwestern accent. Father Emil commented very gently,
Lutheranism is my idea of a holiday. To take those truths we find difficult, and bend them a little to make life easier. Yes, Luther was a great man all right .
I wonder, Father Emil, I wonder.
I’m sure you meant no offence, but Lutheranism and my own tradition stand close, as you know.
Wouldn’t it be easy just to stick to reciting the stuff again and again? Wouldn’t it be easy just to recite truths learned years ago, and not to have to deal with the nasty realities of the contemporary world?
What would be easier to stand in church and read everything from a book, word for word, or to try engage with people?
Bending truths, Father Emil? Or attempting to make those truths comprehensible in a world where God has almost disappeared?