By now the Augie BBQ has wound itself down, and everyone is beginning the homeward journey (or thinking about how best to avoid Chicago traffic). I've been feeling sort of glum, off and on all day, because this is the first time in six years that I wasn't able to attend the CCA in Sussex. For each of the past five years, it's been one of the highlights of the entire year for me. Typically, I spend several months anticipating and looking forward to it, and then another month or two afterwards reveling in the experience. I'm especially sad to have missed it this year, with the convention coming up in a few weeks. If I wasn't a delegate to the convention, I could more or less ignore it, and deal with the consequences in small doses on a "need to know" basis. Being a delegate, however, I will have to endure the entire ordeal, and I have no doubt that it will be a trial and temptation of my faith. I say that not to accuse anyone else, but to acknowledge my own sinfulness and weakness. Three years ago, it was the CCA in June that strengthened and preserved my faith and spirit in the subsequent moil and toil of the convention a month later. So there's a catch-22, isn't it? If I wasn't a delegate this year, I probably could have found a way to attend the CCA. As it is, I couldn't be in Sussex this week, and without that booster shot of catechesis, I'm wary of being in Houston three weeks from now.
In my opinion, the CCA is one of the best and most important things happening in the Lutheran Church in my lifetime. I've learned as much or more from the CCA than I did at the seminary; which is not aimed as a criticism at the seminary, but indicates the benefit I have derived from my very dear friend and colleague, Pastor Bender, and from my other brothers in Christ who have contributed to the CCA over the past half decade. I've had the privilege of being a presenter myself in those years, but I've always felt that I received far more than I contributed.
There are so many things I appreciate about the CCA, I could hardly begin to identify them all. The Divine Service on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, the daily prayer, the pre-conference workshop, the papers and catecheses, the meals together with friends, the opportunity for long talks with people I rarely get to see, the barbecue at the end of it all. To hear Pastor Bender preach the Gospel, to learn from his teaching of the faith, the joy of visiting with him in between the many events of the week, and the honor he has done me in counting me among his friends. These are all most precious gifts, which I have counted among the greatest blessings in my life.
The thing about the CCA that has been most important and significant to me, is that it not only teaches me about the process and methodology of catechesis, but it catechizes me. That was what really struck me the first time I ever attended (in 1999), and it is what I have found every time I've been there since. In saying that it "catechizes" me, I don't mean that it helps me to learn the Catechism better; although it does that, too. The catechesis to which I refer is the actual instruction of the Word of God, the Law and the Gospel. It puts me to death and raises me to new life. It calls me to repentance, forgives my sins, renews and strengthens my faith, and gives me life. It does all of this, because it is the preaching and teaching of Christ Jesus.
Pastor Bender told me once that what makes for a true father in Christ is that such a man gives us Jesus. Although he has taken me under his wing more like an elder brother than a father, he has been such a man for me: one who has consistenly spoken Jesus to me, and, in so speaking, has given Jesus to me. I'm bummed to have missed the CCA this year, but even in regretting that, I am rejoicing in what I have received and learned in the past, and giving thanks that others have once again been fed with the real meat and potatoes of the Word of God.