Former President Kieschnick writes: "Elijah prayed in the presence of hundreds of prophets of false gods. Paul preached in synagogues and taught in temples in the presence of people who rejected Jesus as the promised Messiah. So did Jesus himself."
Have the exegetical capabilities of our clergy fallen to such a nadir that this argument in favor of round robin interfaith prayer services carries any weight? Really? I really feel that I would just be embarrassing our readers by dissecting it. Really, one feels badly about swinging at such low hanging curve balls.
Elijah. Well, let's see. Here is what Elijah said to the people in the presence of the prophets of Baal: "How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him."
If an LCMS clergyman were invited to an interfaith, round robin prayer service and spoke remarks along these lines to the audience, he would be roundly applauded by all who have criticized Pastor Morris' participation. But, of course, that's not what such modern day round robin prayer services are meant to be by their creators among the "community leaders." Comments like, "How long will you in this community go on attending this Mosque? How long will many of you go on talking as if all roads lead to heaven and as if everyone killed in this massacre is in heaven? If Jesus is God, follow him. If Allah is God, follow him." - well, they wouldn't be received well by the organizers and might just get you an indictment for hate speech. That's the Elijah way.
The Paul way? "The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. 46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles."
You see, Paul went to the synagogue because he expected to find believers there - believers in the old covenant to whom he hoped to reveal the fulfillment thereof in Jesus. When they didn't receive it, he left the synagogue.
So how about, "It is necessary that I preach to you people here today the message of Jesus, that He is the only way to heaven and that you cannot attain heaven by being a good Muslim or Jew. If you thrust this aside and continue to stand outside the Church, then you have judged yourselves unworthy of eternal life."
The Jesus way? When Our Lord spoke to mixed crowds on days when it was not yet His hour to be arrested and killed, He usually spoke a parable. Something along these lines might be good in a round robin "event:" "Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. 34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. 35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.' 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" 41 They said to him, "He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons." 42 Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: "' The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes'? 43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him." 45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them.
But all that would be mean wouldn't it? That is, forthrightly preaching that the Jewish kid killed by the madman or the Muslim teenager who drown in the flood or the Mormon mother of three the tornado killed are all in hell and that the only comfort you have for their relatives is that they repent and escape the same fate. . .well, that would be rude. That's not the point of the "event." The point of the "event" is for everyone in the community to feel better. That's why preachers invited to such events never do what Elijah, Paul, or Jesus did.