I've been reading Richard Lischer's Open Secrets, a very fine memoir of his years serving a rural LCMS parish in southern Illinois in the 1960's. It is amazing how the dilemmas of ministry are common across decades, contexts and denominations, but I also appreciate his attention to the historical peculiarities of a place and a church that I have personal connections to as well. I grew up in the LCMS (albeit in California) and many of "my people" settled along the Missisippi in towns like his.
One remarkable chapter focuses on his conversation with a colleague who has lost his wife of many years. This widower confesses that during her struggle with cancer he was unable to pray with her -- to do the very thing that had in many ways defined their marriage for decades. He then goes on to say that this failure violated his own "practical" theology which he had worked out over the years. Although raised in a strand of Lutheran orthodoxy that always puts right belief over right action, he had developed a kind of faith that was about simply "doing" the faithful, relational things of life and ministry -- and then he had failed in that doing in the most important relationship in his life.
It's a stunning chapter because it captures for me the very dilemma many of us face when we try to work out a faith that is neither the old modern orthodoxy -- believe 7 impossible things before breakfast and you're saved -- nor so postmodern that it relies solely on particular actions or relationships, and therefore lacks any transcendance on which we can lean when those things fall apart -- and they always do, to some extent.
Lischer ends the chapter offering absolution to his friend. Perhaps what people on all ends of the modern-postmodern conversation need to do is remind one another of God's forgiveness as we work out our fallible compromises.