Struggling with The Reality of One, Holy, Catholic/Christian and Apostolic Church

Featured imageDiscussion/Devotional Thought of the Day:
1  Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2  Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3  Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4  For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5  There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6  and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all. Ephesians 4:1-6 (NLT)

932      God is right there in the centre of your soul, and mine, and in the soul of everyone who is in a state of grace. He is there for a purpose: so that our salt may increase, that we may acquire more light and that each one of us from his place may know how to distribute those gifts of God. And how can we share out these gifts from God? With humility and piety, and by being very united to our Mother the Church. Do you not recall the vine and the branches? How fruitful is each branch when united to the vine! What large bunches of grapes! And how sterile the broken-off branch that dries up and becomes lifeless! (1)

As often as the sacrifice of the cross in which Christ our Passover was sacrificed, is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried on, and, in the sacrament of the eucharistic bread, the unity of all believers who form one body in Christ  is both expressed and brought about. All men are called to this union with Christ, who is the light of the world, from whom we go forth, through whom we live, and toward whom our whole life strains.(2)

When I was first installed as a Lutheran pastor, part of the service was my assent to the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.  i gave assurance that i believed in what the word of God teaches, and that i found the explanation of that found in the documents of the book of Concord to be a clear explanation of them. 

I did then, and I do now so believe.

Yet, I struggle with the dissonance between those documents and what is commonly held to today.  

One of those struggles is found in the words from the Nicene Creed, “and I believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.” (3)  I hold to those words, and find great comfort in them. I believe there is only one church, yet I see the fragmentation of it, and worse, I see pastors and people who rejoice over that fragmentation.

Yet that fragmentation is not something praised in scripture.  The Ephesians passage above makes this clear. We can add to the passage the 12-14th chapters of Romans and 1 Corinthians 12-14. We could also mention Philippians 2, not just the well known 5-10, but the verses that are the reason Paul includes 5-10; the call to unity, the call to serving other.  Add 1 John – the entire letter, but especially chapter 4.  

And yet we deny the church is one.

And in doing so, we deny the desire of Christ Jesus.  We deny the unity we find in Christ Jesus, who draws us all to Himself, and who unites us to Himself, as we are united together in His death, and in His resurrection.  It is the unity we see, as we kneel and commune together, a family feast with not just the congregation we gather with, but the whole church, including all the company of heaven. 

I am not saying that we should compromise on our doctrine!  However, the Una Sancta (that there is one group of holy people – those who trust in Christ Jesus) is part of that doctrine; what we discern because it has been revealed to us in scripture.  To deny this does what St. Josemaria states, it causes us to wither and die, 

I love what Vatican 2 describes, the very nature of the Lord’s Supper brings about and reveals that unity. Luther does an excellent job, although with many more words, in the Large Catechism’s explanation of the Creed.

The challenge i see is that we continue to think unity comes about by studying doctrine, debating over who is correct.  Yet the church has often claimed what we pray determines what we believe.  Why is that not true here? Unity is found at the altar, at the baptismal font, as we together have the grace and peace of God abundantly poured out upon us.  Unity comes from the Spirit, given to each of us in baptism – gathers us together into one family of God. 

Yes, there will be arguments, but those need to boil down to being discussions, with the end result acknowledging the presence of Christ.  Yes there will be those who wander away, but we are called to work to reconcile and restore them, rather than vilifying and condemning them. Yes, we have to identify false teaching, but we need to do it with the idea of reconciliation, and with the attitude of love that Christ demonstrated, dying for us.

Unity in a church of unperfected saints isn’t easy, but it isn’t optional.  We are one, holy catholic and apostolic church!

Maybe it’s time that was more clearly revealed in our lives, and how we treat each other.  Maybe it’s time to meet in prayer, and ask God to make His reality, ours.

Kyrie Eleison!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3287-3293). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)    Catholic Church. (2011). Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

(3)  The original translations of the Creed use the word Catholic, which means universal.  However, Lutheran churches often substitute the word Christian in instead.  I have been told that there was no word for catholic in german at the time the Creed was translated into german.  While I cannot confirm that, I still prefer to use in my writings Catholic and explain its meaning, rather than change the creed. 

About justifiedandsinner

I am a pastor of a Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos, California, where we rejoice in God's saving us from our sin, and the unrighteousness of the world. It is all about His work, the gift of salvation given to all who trust in Jesus Christ, and what He has done that is revealed in Scripture. God deserves all the glory, honor and praise, for He has rescued and redeemed His people.

Posted on February 14, 2015, in Augsburg and Trent, Devotions, Poiema, The Forge and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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