One Holy Church in 40,000 parts?
From the Large Catechism of Martin Luther:
But this is the meaning and substance of this addition: I believe that there is upon earth a little holy group and congregation of pure saints, under one head, even Christ, called together by the Holy Ghost in one faith, one mind, and understanding, with manifold gifts, yet agreeing in love, without sects or schisms. I am also a part and member of the same a sharer and joint owner of all the goods it possesses, brought to it and incorporated into it by the Holy Ghost by having heard and continuing to hear the Word of God, which is the beginning of entering it.
A week from now, I will preach at a combined services of congregations, as we gather to celebrate Reformation Day. Last night, the above passage was discussed in a group I am teaching. The juxtaposition of which confounds me, and to be honest, depresses and saddens me.
I comprehend the details of Luther’s departure from the Roman Catholic Church, and the pain his writings reveal as he went through very dark days. His reaction towards those who should have discussed the issues is often inexcusable, even as we realize the pain which caused the reaction.
But there is supposed to be one church, a holy, united/catholic, and apostolic/missional church which finds unity not by its own reasoning and strength, but instead in Christ, as they are gathered by the Holy Spirit. Remember Jesus’ call that His disciples may be one – even as the Father and Jesus were One? We are supposed to be without sects or schisms, yet there are 40,000 denominations and within those denominations (including the RCC) there are movements and sub-groups which are competitive and divisive and questioned and not trusted.
So do we abandon hope for a church united in Christ? Or do we justify a decisions with a reference to the visible and invisible church, noting that just because we can’t see our unity, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist? DO we mourn the lack of unity in the church, and the sin which causes it? Or do we triumphantly rise in our sects and schisms and proclaim that we are the true church, and all heterodox bodies are less loved, less effective, and therefore God is not in control?
I pray, even as we approach the five hundreth year since the divisions in the church manifested themselves, and we are eight hundred and sixty years since the Great Schism, that we all pray, as our Lord did – that we would be one. Not in compromising our trust in Christ, but instead, allowing the Holy Spirit to work through word and sacrament to do that which we confess He does… making us one, holy, catholic and apostolic gathering….
Lord have mercy on us!
Posted on October 22, 2012, in Devotions and tagged Catholic, jesus christ, Leo, love, Luther, mercy, Reformation, Reformation day, that they may be one, unity. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.