Devotional Thought of the Day:
22 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. 24 Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began! John 17:22-24 (NLT)
Most Lutheran churches celebrated a church “holy day” yesterday. The 496th anniversary of Martin Luther inviting theologians and pastors and people to a dialogue on issues that gravely concerened him. The issue was a very serious one – which affects how we see Christ’ work and the cross. As you read this, please understand me, this is still the serious issue for me. It is why I am Lutheran and not Roman Catholic Christian.
But the unintended side affects of that action has resulted in a splintering of the church, as we have taken serious issues, and far less issues and made them “the” points of division. 40,000 divisions, and whether they are over issues like Christ’s work on the cross, or whether we baptize with a little water or much, or what instruments we use, or what we call the guy who preaches and teaches the congregation about Jesus, or about whether something is sin. Those divisions are to be grieved, not celebrated.. Seriously grieved over.
Simply because the division breeds contempt, and often attempts at reconciliaiton – true reconciliation are avoided, ignored, and even mocked. We celebrate these days, and rejoice that God “purified” His gospel, without considering that millions won’t hear it, For if we believe the difference is that important, why don’t we engage is discussion, that the position may be evaluated, tested against scripture, that it might be heard?
There are times where it would seem like reconciliation is impossible, like when Luther had a death warrant on him. But that doesn’t mean we stop praying for the church to find that reconciliation, even praying those from whom we are divided. It doesn’t mean we stop engaging in discussion when we can. It means we trust in God, even risking all, to depend on His working these things out, in His performing miracles.
You see, any sense of unity that would happen, would happen not in board rooms, but at the foot of the cross. It won’t happen through negotiation, but through absolution. It happens as we are broken together before God, and we praise Him together for saving us, redeeming us, reconciling us to Him. Where we celebrate Christ uniting us to Himself in Baptism, and we find we are together there. That is when I believe that we will begin to find unity that demonstrates the love of the Father for the Son, for the Trinity for us. That unity is found in no other name, no other label, in unity or disunity with no one else. For only Jesus can deal with our sins, those very things that divide us from God, those things that divide us from each other. We can’t deal with sin, any sin, especially the sin of division, unless it is there, in Christ.
I doubt I would ever sit down with my own Synodical President, never mind Pope Francis (who I greatly admire, perhaps more than any church leader in my life so far) That doesn’t stop me from praying for them, praying to see what the theologians call the “invisible Church” be more clearly manifested in the “visible Church”. That Christ would be known by the world.
Yeah- I Pray that Reformation Day would become obsolete, preferably by its 500th anniversay…..and I struggle to celebrate it. Because the next day… matters even more. The Day we celebrate All Saints, as we have testified along with countless others, that God has one, holy, universal (i.e. small c catholic) and apostolic church. A church that rejoices together in God making us His people, and it being revealed to us He is our God.
22 Now all this happened in order to make come true what the Lord had said through the prophet, 23 “A virgin will become pregnant and have a son, and he will be called Immanuel” (which means, “God is with us”). Matthew 1:22-23 (TEV)
20 . ..And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:20 (ESV)
1 So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. 2 Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (TEV)
“In many Catholic parishes of the twenty-first century there is little sense of sacred space. The reverent silence that used to prevail in Catholic churches is rarely encountered, even in churches that have an ample narthex where the gathering congregation can greet one another before entering the church proper. Yet if the church proper is the Porta Coeli, the door of heaven and the portal of the Kingdom, then surely one ought to act in that space somewhat differently than one acts at the local mall or supermarket.“ (1)
I have, in the last few months as I have digested Weigel’s book on the century long changes in the Roman Catholic Church, found many things that are well stated, many things that are Biblical, many things I wish my own church would implement in attitude. But no church denomination is perfect, and no plan of man for its reform is without error, And I think I’ve found one, one that is sadly reflected in my own church as well.
It’s this idea that there is a distinction between that which is sacred and that which is secular, or to use the philosophical categories – sacred and the profane.
Like many people, Weigel sees the church facility as a transition place, a place where we go from the unreligious, unrighteousness of our world into a transition zone – we are coming close to God, and therefore our mind, our attitudes, our bodies must change. His line about acting differently in that space, more reverential. more sanctified, more holy, is a great point – and yes – I would love for my own church to have a time of meditative silence, to think about how much we need to remember we dwell in God’s presence. It would be beneficial, it would be nice.
But the reasoning is flawed. It’s not about what we do that prepares us for the blessings of sharing in Word in sacrament.
It is even more flawed because it teaches us that our lives are somewhat split. We behave one way in church, when we are in the presence of God, and one way when we are at work, or home, or a ball game. It’s as if we say – hey we aren’t in God’s presence anymore, we can now behave like the rest of the world. That was “His time” and now – the rest of the week is “ours” It doesn’t work that way – and that we allow people to think that way is not a beneficial thing.
God doesn’t want that 60-75 minutes a week. ( but the more we realize how it blesses us, we should! ) He wants to share every moment with us, that is why He is called Immanuel ( Immanent/Immediate God), that is what He has promised us. That is the gift of our baptism, as the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us. Yes the time where blessings are poured out are awesome, but so can be the times in the night, when we need His comfort, and realize He is there. The blessings of having Him bring us peace, in the midst of trauma or adversity. Even the restoration, when we realize the depth of our sin, or how we have created an idol that we put in His place… and cry out for forgiveness and restoration.
Christianity is not about our practices, it is about our living with God. It is about the fact that there is no secular space for us, there is no profane time, because He has invaded it, cleansed it, set it apart for our time with Him.
The church doors being a division between such? May we never think that way… may we never teach it that way… may we live each day, each moment, whereever we are, in His peace, in His mercy, in His glory…. in HIs love.
(1) Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 157). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
All who have given up home or brothers and sisters or father and mother or children or land for me will be given a hundred times as much. They will also have eternal life. 30 But many who are now first will be last, and many who are last will be first. Matthew 19:29-30 (CEV)
If service, in our serving. In Greek it reads διακονίαν, ἐν τῃ̂ διακονίᾳ, that is, “in ministering.” “Ministers” are all those who serve in ecclesiastical offices, such as the priest, the deacon, the subdeacon, and all who have to do with sacred rites except the administration of the Word of God, and also those who assist a teacher, as the apostle often speaks of his helpers.
Has this man reached a level of spiritual maturity in which his competence as a pastor and his security as a man and a Christian disciple express themselves humbly? Does he see his ministry as one of empowering in others the gifts the Holy Spirit has bestowed on those in his pastoral charge? Does he treat those who help him implement his pastoral ministry as collaborators in the work of the Gospel, or as indentured servants? Does he foster talent, not being threatened by it? (2)
Most pastors aren’t called to give up homes or family, in the USA even few are called to give up their lives. But there is something that continues to grow, that goes against everything I learned in my early training, and more and more, I am finding, in the historic church.
My Bible College drummed it into us that those in ministry are servants. Whether they are going to be Children’s Ministers, Youth Ministers, Senior/Preaching pastors, or Missionaries – each are called to serve… each are called to lay behind our personal preferences, our wants, and yeah – even sometimes our needs, in order to reveal to people the love and mercy of Christ, and to show them how to love and be merciful to those around them. This isn’t easy… it takes realizing that we aren’t superstars, that we are as broken, and the chief of all sinners, that God may show our people what can be done in our lives..
That’s different than the idea of professional clergy, it’s different from the times in history where the pastors and priests were looked up to as “Herr Pastor” or the idea of the “high priest”. (I have to admit a certain level of pleasure watching Pope Francis take this attitude on in the Catholic Church, where others have simply tolerated it – and more than a smidgen of jealousy as I consider our leaders…)
Luther reminded us that we are servants – not just those who have inherited the apostolic office, but all those who assist as helpers as well. Weigel dreams of a priesthood as well – where we see our co-workers in ministry as our collaborators, not as our servants. We have been called to serve them, to train them, to see them develop. Last week, one of the men I get to assist in growing up in the ministry preached another awesome sermon. Even more, he preached it in a place few others could go, to people that most “professionals” would discount, would see the doors closed, because it wasn’t enough.
there is something in his work, that I wish every professional pastor could learn, could observe, could emulate. That they too could take on such a group of guys and serve them – work with them, patiently, lovingly, helping them see God, helping them see God working in their brokenness, helping them see that relationship develop…. and transform those that they work with…completely. Then as they transform, watching them care for others.
Weigel dreams of this for his church body, he loyally suggests this is the track it is taking (and did so prior to Francis being elected.) Luther knew it – his co-workers literally faced persecution and death – and rose up from nothingness…
I pray this for the churches and pastors I work with as well….
That we would serve… content to follow the example of Christ… and to seriously look at passages like Phil. 2:1-11, Romans 12:1-8, and 1 Corinthians 12-13……
And may we, in ways sometimes seen, and often not seen…on earth.. praise and give glory to God our Father, who sees all, as we obey His commands.
(1) Luther, M. Luther’s Works, Vol. 25 : Lectures on Romans. Ed. J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann. Luther’s Works. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1972.
(2) Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (pp. 123-124). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
Devotional and Discussion Thought of the day:
A post on Facebook this morning brought memories of our trip (dare I say our pilgrimage) to Rome last year.
We were walking down a street – just trying to get a feeling for the city. An amazing city, and dare I say it had a sense of both home and holiness. It is hard to explain – but it was there, not just in the churches, but among the very streets. We came across this building from the back, obviously a place that was old and needing more restoration. As we rounded the front – it was the Pantheon – the incredible temple built for sacrifices to be offered to the pantheon of Roman Gods – its oculus – the hole in the center of the dome – even on an overcast day lit this ancient magnificent structure incredibly. The huge iron doors, amazing.
Yet what astounded me the most, this incredible building, built to worship false gods, built as a place to appease them, was transformed, sanctified, set apart centuries later to be a place of like transformation, a place to celebrate the Light pouring into lives.
What I never read of, what I never realized – is that this building is now a church – an active place where people are baptized, and transformed by the Love of God. A place where the Body and Blood of Christ is the only sacrifice that matters, the only one that could be used to redeem and revive and restore.
A place that was redeemed, that was set apart (sanctified) to be a place where redemption and sanctification of man occurs, because of the love of the One, True God, who does that which we cannot. He buys us back, He redeems us, He cleanses us, He sets us apart….for Him.
As I walked into the Pantheon, as I saw the altars, the paintings, the incredible dome, the oculus, a sense of awe overtook me – much different than the awe at the forum, or at Triumphant Arches, or looking at the wall, or even as we walked through the ruins of Pompeii. It wasn’t just a historical reminder of our past, of the culture we’ve lost.
It’s a place where faith is strengthened, where life in Christ begins, where redemption is seen and known.
A place where God has come.
A place where I have hope – for if God can transform such a place – I realize that I too can be transformed – and that I too can be a place where God dwells, where He abides, where with other believers, we form a temple not made with hands… and our sacrifice is not to die, but to live. Where as this building gains the identity of being a place of God, such is my vocation and life. Yours as well.
Such is the wonder of walking with Christ.
He makes all things – whether ancient temples dedicated to man’s glory, or men themselves…new.
May our lives praise Him, and may people glorify Him more as they see His work in and through us. AMEN
Thought of the Day:
Thus the priest, like the bishop, is first a preacher, teacher, catechist, and sanctifier before he is an administrator. Priests are leaders of their parishes, as bishops are of their dioceses. But in a fully embodied Evangelical Catholicism, deacons and other qualified lay members of the Church will handle more and more of the routine business of parish and diocesan administration. The pastors— bishops who are true successors of the apostles, and priests who form a presbyteral college with and under the bishop (as the bishops form an episcopal college with and under the Bishop of Rome, the pope)— have more urgent matters to which they must attend. Yet the lay vocation, as understood by Evangelical Catholicism, is not primarily one of Church management, in which only a small minority of laity will be involved. The lay vocation is evangelism: of the family, the workplace, and the neighborhood, and thus of culture, economics, and politics. As Evangelical Catholicism rejects the clericalism by which the lay members of the Church were simply to pray, pay, and obey (or, as a nineteenth-century aristocratic English variant had it, to hunt, shoot, and entertain), so it rejects a clericalized notion of lay vocation as primarily having to do with working in the parish office or diocesan chancery. 34 There is important work to be done in those venues, and lay Catholics can and ought to do more of it, thus freeing priests and bishops for the work they were ordained to do. But the primary lay vocation, as John Paul II taught in the 1990 encyclical Redemptoris Missio, is to bring the Gospel into all of those parts of “the world” to which the laity has greater access than those who are ordained: the family, the mass media, the business community, the worlds of culture, and the political arena, for example. (1)
I’ve mentioned before that I am sort of reviewing this book – Evangelical Catholic – slowing – digesting the differences between how its author describes the changes manifesting now in Roman Catholicism – and what I see in the present and in the hsotiry of Lutheranism – which was originally called – “evangelical catholic”. Not as a devotional persay, but it ends up being so for me.
Today is no different – as I think about the deacons I train (historically assistants in the college – as they were/are ordained )and about the work of the people here in my church. Wiegel’s point about their having a primary vocation of evangelist is an awesome point – I highly agree – and it is their primary vocation, as they bring the gospel into their homes, into their friends homes, into their workplaces and the conversations they have out there in the not so “real world”.
Some would argue that the proclamation of the gospel is the role of the clergy and indeed it is. But it isn’t only the clergy’s work – it is the work of the family of God – YHWH & Son’s (and daughters!) The pastors and priests (and bishops and deacons ) preachin a way that the laity comprehend the grace of God, which the Holy Spirit actively embodies in every moment of their lives – bringing joy and peace into some of the most challenging situations that they, and those around them, encounter. It is there – that the gospel is shown through their lives, through their loves, through the hope they have – even in the midst of situations that would be considered hopeless. Places that wouldn’t necessarily be a place where my black shirt and collar are welcome.
But that is a harder calling for the priest and pastor, to preach in that way. It is a more demanding way, is a sense from the people who sit in the pews.
It is, and isn’t.
For Evangelism isn’t a duty, it is an act of love. It is realizing that what has brought healing and peace to our broken lives will bring healing and peace to others lives. Such healing and peace – in the midst of such brokenness, that we cannot bear to see those who are broken in such a way continue in it. In love we come to them – to help them with their burdens, to calm their anxious souls, to bring healing to shattered lives and shattered relationships. That means – that most of the time – it is the laity that see it first – that come alongside them – that bear them to us, were we continue the word and sacrament minsitry together.
It’s not the laity or the clergy – it is the people of God – as He has called and equipped and sent us…. to bring His love.
This is a good thing! A very incredible thing! God using us all…. how awesome!
(1)Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 80). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
- Need Hope? No Answers? Come Experience Jesus, Have Hope! (evangelical catholic VI) (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Will Jesus find us trusting Him? (Evangelical Catholic Evaluation V) (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Evangelical Catholicism Pt IV: Why have churches shrunk? (justifiedandsinner.com)
Thought of the day, please discuss and meditate on it:
2 Be like newborn babies, always thirsty for the pure spiritual milk, so that by drinking it you may grow up and be saved. 3 As the scripture says, “You have found out for yourselves how kind the Lord is.” 4 Come to the Lord, the living stone rejected by people as worthless but chosen by God as valuable. 5 Come as living stones, and let yourselves be used in building the spiritual temple, where you will serve as holy priests to offer spiritual and acceptable sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:2-5 (TEV)
“This emphasis on beauty in the liturgical life of the Church is another reason why Evangelical Catholicism takes sacramental preparation and adult catechesis so seriously. Absent a true understanding of what the liturgy is, grounded in a firm grasp of what the Gospel is, those who “come to church” do not grow in living faith. Liturgy without Gospel is superstition, or self-worship, or both. Thus evangelical Catholic parishes take care to provide ongoing liturgical catechesis; this is primarily done through preaching, but it is also done through the various other means by which pastors communicate with their people. Pastors who understand that liturgical catechesis is a matter of empowering their people to exercise the priestly gift that is theirs by reason of Baptism will be likely to be effective in building worshipping communities that celebrate the sacred liturgy nobly, according to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. Evangelical Catholic liturgy is, finally, mission-driving. Having been lifted up to the threshold of the Throne of Grace through the dignified celebration of the Church’s liturgy, evangelical Catholics leave Sunday Mass with a new charge of missionary energy. Thus they are always ready to welcome non-Catholic Christians and nonbelievers to the Church’s worship as a means to meet Jesus Christ and enter into friendship with him.” (1)
I recently began a new class at our church, one that is, at once a review of our our faith and of the what and why of our Liturgical Worship. I need to start off with a disclaimer I suppose, that I find an incredible richness in the liturgy, yet because of the uncommon language, and the unexplained movements, that richness is mostly hidden. When I comment to that extent some have accused me of being a proponent of anti-liturgical or aliturgical (i.e. Contemptorary Worship) even though I have noted the same errors in those groups. The church (and I mean the church in its entirety ) in the twenty-first century simply doesn’t do a good enough job teaching people the way in which we worship. This is true whether it is in the uncommon language and movements of Liturgical churches, or the Contemporary services where the simpler movements are still not explained, and are often far removed from the interaction of a Liturgical Service.
In Wiegel’s article – there is much that is true to the church outside the auspices of Rome. (As well of course, as the Church of Rome about which he writes.) Specifically of the quote above, and the Bible passage, I would highlight these things.
1. Worship/Liturgy without the Gospel is empty superstition
There is a part of me that loves to describe food, for example the sizzling of a thick slice of bacon, with its incredible flavor investing the air throughout a home. It’s because I love watching people uncontrollably begin to react. You can’t help it. The same thing should happen within the liturgy – when people are so aware of the grace, the gospel, the love, the mercy and peace that is about to be shared, that they cannot but begin to react in expectation. Like those babies in Peter’s letter, there is a desire that builds within us, when we know about what we are to receive. Absolution, being reminded of the promises of our baptism as we make the sign of the cross, the fact that we are welcome into the Father’s presence, not only that – He desires our presence! Then, the incredible feast – that which we must give thanks and praise. ( I hope maybe you are longing for communion like deacons hunger for bacon.)
But imagine not knowing what bacon tasted like? Imagine not knowing what the flavor that is carried throughout a home where it is cooked. How could you know how good, how alive the flavor would make your mouth come alive? The same is true with the liturgy – we rob people when we don’t show them how the Liturgy delivers to them everything of Christ – His presence, His mercy, His love, His comfort, forgiveness, peace, healing…… to them. This is true as well – when the service is robbed of liturgical elements, when we don’t take the time to realize that that’s the Lamb of God, sent to take away our sins as well as the sins of the world, or, my gosh – we have seen His salvation, or even as simply as hearing that every burden we have, God desires to take away from us, that we may realize that indeed His is the glory and the honor and the power….as we pray as He taught.
2. Teaching the people the Liturgy, (and how it delivers to them Christ) is something that empowers them, that helps them realize the gifts given to them in their baptism. Heling them know that they are God’s children, priests and kings. As Peter says, as we are joined to the Chief Cornerstone in our Baptism – we are used to build that spiritual temple – where we all work together, serving together, as His priests, where our work is acceptable to God, because it isn’t ours, it is Christ’s Jesus. (see Romans 12:1-10) People need only realize what is being given to them, if how the liturgy teachings them, shows them, how to dance with God through life, even through the slow and somber times. Having realized the incredible power of God’s love, having been taught what they need to know about Christ, having realized how God has ministered to them through word and sacrament…how could we not be empowered? Look at Acts – every time someone proclaimed the Gospel of Christ’s work, the sermons weren’t even completed before someone did something. Because they proclaimed the gospel – and the people heard it.
May ours do as well.
3. And that is why the third thing happens: liturgy is, finally, mission-driving. Thus they are always ready to welcome non-Catholic (insert your own “brand here) Christians and nonbelievers to the Church’s worship as a means to meet Jesus Christ and enter into friendship with him.
I love that Wiegel described what it means to be missional, to have an apostolate. It’s not about recruiting people to become members of the organism. It isn’t about getting them from their churches to ours, or to convert them for the sake of numbers. I love the way Wiegel puts this…it is so… well Lutheran. Worship is a means (and it contains the means) to meet Christ, and enter into a relationship with Him. A relationship where He no longer calls use servants – but indeed, friends. This is what it is all about, this is why we do what we do.
They need to know Him – and this liturgy – honed and translated into the language of the people, does that very thing….. so well.
So I encourage you – if a pastor or priest, church musician, worship leader, singer – know why and what you do – and share it with those who need to know Jesus….. and then watch your liturgy come alive…..
(1) Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 74). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
- Will Jesus find us trusting Him? (Evangelical Catholic Evaluation V) (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Need Hope? No Answers? Come Experience Jesus, Have Hope! (evangelical catholic VI) (justifiedandsinner.com)
- The Beauty of the Liturgy – Evangelical Catholic VIII (justifiedandsinner.com)
- evangelical catholic – pt. 3 – An interesting comment on fellowship/communion (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Liturgy: What’s the Point? (newevangelizers.com)
Discussion Thought of the Day:
“If a robust Evangelical Catholicism, formed by Word and Sacrament to take the Gospel of truth and love “into the deep” of the modern and postmodern world, is the deeply reformed Church to which the entire trajectory of Catholic development from Leo XIII to Benedict XVI points, and which the Second Vatican Council envisioned, then the great postconciliar failure of Catholicism— the collapse of the Church in Christianity’s historical heartland, Western Europe— comes into sharper focus. Western European Catholicism’s demise was not, it becomes clear, the result of an internal civil war between Catholic progressives and Catholic traditionalists. Nor are the prescriptions of either of these exhausted camps likely to lead to revival and reform in the future. The Church in Europe has been in free fall throughout the postconciliar years because too many of its people ceased to believe that the Gospel is true. The crisis of Catholicism in Europe did not come about because the institutional Church faltered and its people subsequently bailed out. The crisis came because the people of the Church (including the clergy) ceased to believe with passion and conviction, ceased to find joy in the presence of the Lord— and sought their happiness elsewhere. Because of that, the institution (which in some countries, such as Germany and Italy, remains extremely wealthy) faltered— and seems to be collapsing in the first quarter of the twenty-first century. The Catholic future in Europe lies not in managerial reforms (although those are needed), but in a renaissance of faith, which will likely come (as such things often do) from outside the formal structures of Catholic life (i.e., parishes and dioceses) and from within renewal movements and new forms of Catholic community. There, the vision of Evangelical Catholicism is alive. And if that vision attains critical mass, following the authentic promptings of the Holy Spirit, it may eventually reform— and transform— the institutional Church.” (1)
What I read above, though directed at the Roman Catholic Church by one of its own, I believe is equally true for all churches and all denominations and especially my Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
It’s not a matter a matter of who is right in the worship wars, or the supposed division of being faithful versus being missional. It doesn’t have to do, as much as we think it might – with who is in power, for I think that where the gospel is preached and the sacraments are administer – that is where the church is. The hierarchy exists to serve – to be a blessing to the people, as they serve the sacraments and are nothing but conduits through which God’s love and mercy flows. And I have seen both churches that are contemporary, and that are high liturgical and that are 1950’s dream churches – that all are growing – and that all are failing to reach their community. (Recently in Rome, I saw a church filled with people for a high Latin Mass – all of the with great joy as they looked to the sacrament.) As Wiegel notes – we can reform all our admin, we can put allt he right systems in place and run programs and have staffing, but it will be in vain. And our churches will continue to fail – and depend on what god has supplemented the God who came to us, and died.
I highlighted part of Wiegel’s words above in red for a reason, this is the only thing I see that makes a difference in a church, no matter the size, no matter the budget, no matter whether it is growing or not. It is, clearly this one principal – do they get that they are in the presence of God, do they celebrate His love and mercy and His presence. Do we get that the Lord’s Supper, the focus of this day, isn’t about the rote movements – but as one of my oldest favorite songs describes – “God and Man at Table are sat Down” DO we realize His presence, His love, cleansing not just our feet but our lives, healing us, transforming us, the Holy Spirit residing with us!
Do we get that God has invited us to be not just His servants, but as Jesus says, His friends? To dwell in HIs glory, to be adopted children of the King?
You want such and such style of worship? Fine. You want such and such programs? They are out there! You want a cozy intimate church where everyone knows you name? You want a church that is involved in missional work? Or in serving the poor? Or in saving the unborn? Or in educating everyone? All good things… BUT
Above all, desire this – to be in a place that understands these words:
The Lord is with you!
And respond back… with fervor, with conviction, and with love…
And Also with you ( or and with your Spirit)
(1)Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (pp. 51-52). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
Not quite a devotional but….a good thing to discuss!
I mentioned before, in pts 1 & 2 that the Lutherans were once callled “evangelical catholic”, so the title of this book by George Wiegel intrigued me, when I saw a friend reference it. It isn’t about Lutherans, or Lutheranism, but a look back at the last centruy of the Roman Catholic Church, looking at a change in the nature of ministry, a re-focusing. As I have read the first few pages and chapters, I realized that processing it might be better done in writing – as I see somethings incredibly… well “Lutheran”… and part of me wonders about how Luther would fare in today’s RCC. At any rate – since I am processing it, I suppose that some of you might enjoy the thoughts, or even better, engage in discussion. So here goes part 3.
Thus evangelical Catholics who adhere to the Gospel— once again, the truths that God has revealed for our salvation in Holy Scripture and the apostolic tradition— are in fuller communion with evangelical Protestants who affirm classic Christian orthodoxy than they are with prominent Catholic theologians such as Hans Küng, Roger Haight, and Elizabeth Johnson, despite being, canonically, in the same Church with the latter. (1)
The context of this quote, comes from a discussion about the church’s doctrine – and unity within the doctrine. It notes, fairly, that not all that claim the title of Catholic (we could add/substitute Lutheran or for that matter – Christian) do not agree with the teaching and/or practice of the church. There is obviously some flexibility in practice, the Franciscans/Capuchins do hold everything in common with the Dominicans or the numeraries of Opus Dei. But there are those who specifically break with the church. A great example would be Hans Kung, or the politicians who are pro-abortion, or pro-women’ s ordination, and yet claim to be good Catholics. The author notes a desire for people to be honest – if they have another faith, or even another god, just admit it – and follow that god and its teachings to the extreme.
That is another discussion, but it gives context.
What I am surprised at, is the idea that a catholic author would dare write that there are those of us out in the protestant sphere, who affirm classic Christian Orthodoxy, that closer in communion to those “evangelical catholics” – because of our focus on the gospel, and the task we’ve been given to plead with people to be reconciled to God ( II Cor. 5). It is something I’ve been wondering about for about 2 and a hlf years – whether our affiliation to our denominations is based in culture or ethnicity, rather than doctrine. That our battles within denominations are more about our preference of practice, than actually being consistent to the faith delivered to us.
Let me use an example.
A regular attender at one of the churches I pastored was an 88 year old lady – an incredible lady who was an active participant in the life of our parish. She went through the new members class with great joy, as she finally had answers that puzzled her forever. But when it came to the end of the class, she and I had a conversation- because while she wanted to be active in everything (except congregational meetings) and she loved the doctrine that she was taught, loved the service, loved the sacraments and the promises they gave her, she had called herself a Presbyterian all her life. It was hard to give up the word, and the fact that it made up so much of her identity, and she struggled with becoming a member – just because of a strong tie to the word…..
Kung does this – as do other theologians and even writers – look at all the catholic journalists who now are writing that the new pope must change this, or bring the church into the present by removing the restriction on “that”.
And we find ourselves – no matter the title, in fellowship with people who are different in their core beliefs, their core practices, while the people we have far more in common…we are separate from, standing across the road, as it where – able to see and wave and talk… yet…. It’s no wonder that many young people don’t grasp why the denominations are necessary, when they really aren’t united in doctrine.
I think ultimately, there are two options. Will we further dissect the church, creating smaller and smaller denominations and synods – niche marketing the faith as it were…
Or we will simply run to the cross, and pray…. for our unity – in Christ.
(1) Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 38). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
Devotional/Discussion point of the Day:
A friend on Facebook recently put a couple of quotes from a book he was reading on his feed, noting the title. Looking at the reviews, the book intrigued me, and I started reading it yesterday at lunch. Technically, it seeks to document how the Roman Catholic Church is negotiating between the rock and hard places in the last century. The Rock being the counter-reformation and its simplistic catachesis and demand of obedience, and the modern progressive views which would demean and dismiss scripture in view of modern philosophy and practice.
It is a similar path to that which some of us navigate in my own denominaiton – as on one side legalism, and the other the extremes of Church Growth theorists. In my opinion, which isn’t much, I see the same issue on both sides – they would reduce the walk of faith with Christ to a simple programmatic practice. I’ve been on both sides.
I am probably going to go through this book slowly – much slower than others, trying to see how much is applicable. After all, Lutheran theologians and the Lutheran Church was originally known, as “evangelical catholics..” I will probably have to sift a bit of this book – as I do with those from evangelical proteestants, but I have a feeling it will be..beneficial
At any rate – here is the first quote that really stood out:
“The fire of the Holy Spirit purifies, inspires, and fuses men and women together into a new human community, the Church. Through each of its members, and in them as a whole, the Church is the Body of Christ on earth. Paul, Barnabas, and all who have been truly converted to Christ— such that friendship with Christ and extension of the possibility of friendship with Christ to others has become the basic dynamic of their lives— have become something different. Radically converted Christians have become men and women marked by tongues of fire, animated by the Spirit, whose abiding presence they recognize in the liturgy by their common prayer, their exchange of the peace of Christ, and their common reception of the Lord’s body and blood.” (1)
I like this statement, especially the italicized portion. It seeks neither to dismiss our liturgy and those communal, sacramental, incarnational practice, nor does it diminish our intimate dance with the Holy Spirit in them. (I use dance purposefully, for dancing uses our hearts and minds and bodies – all at once – which the Holy Spirit does engage.)
I also resonate with the three specifics mentioned
– a life of prayer – together – as the early church did. (see Acts 2) From the cry for forgiveness, to the Kyrie, to the prayers of the church and the prayer Christ taught, the church comes alive when in conversation with God.
– the exchange of the peace of Christ – what a way to describe this! (much stronger than the passing of the peace!) This has become a hallmark of my present congregation – the point in the service, where assured that the peace of Christ is with us, we confirm that it is also among us, that God’s peace is… uniting us, breaking down the walls – infusing mercy, and the desire and act of reconciling us to each other. This is not just a time for a casual greeting.. but a time where tears of joy, and sorrow are shed, where peace is created by God among us in a powerful, transforming way.
their common reception of the Lord’s Body and Blood! Do I have to explain how the Spirit revives and renews us, in this simple act of incredible…significance? To know we are welcome to celebrate Christ’s sacrifice – realizing we are welcomed at this table, that together we are having a feast that is the most significant meal of our lives? The words can’t express what it means to partake of the Lamb of God, to see and taste salvation…
Occaisonally, I will add a post to my blog about the book – not replacing the devotions, but perhaps helping navigate these waters, as we try to be neither legalists, nor faithless moralists.
(1)Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (Kindle Locations 489-494). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
- Setting the World Ablaze (nationalreview.com)
- Weigel: A New Take on Modern Catholic History (juicyecumenism.com)
- Public, not church, needs to change to energize Catholicism (rep-am.com)