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Our need for community, a special community.

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The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:
42  And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43  And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44  And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45  And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47  praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47 (ESV)

As the Father is called Creator and the Son is called Redeemer, so on account of his work the Holy Spirit must be called Sanctifier, the One who makes holy.
37 How does this sanctifying take place? Answer: Just as the Son obtains dominion by purchasing us through his birth, death, and resurrection, etc., so the Holy Spirit effects our sanctification through the following: the communion of saints or Christian church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. In other words, he first leads us into his holy community, placing us upon the bosom of the church, where he preaches to us and brings us to Christ.

We often talk about the Body of Christ from a functional or clinical viewpoint.  That is, we will talk about it as we try to find people their place in the church, finding out what part they will play, what gifts they have.  Or we might use the concept clinically when one person is disrupting the unity of the church, and we appeal to them, reminding them that they are a part of the whole.

I think Luther, in explaining the work of the Holy Spirit, brings the topic up from a view that is not primarily functional.  Rather it is experiential, that the Holy Spirit brings us into the special community to reveal to us the dimensions of God’s love and transform us.  That transformation is called “sanctification”, which is another way of saying making us holy, setting us apart to a special relationship, to be one with God and all His family.

His family, His holy people, His holy community, His communion.

This is easy to say, but hard to accept, this idea that we are one body, that we are one community (no matter how fractured or impaired)  That we are one in Christ, which makes us one, even as Jesus and the Father (and the Spirit ) are one. That we live and move and have our being in Christ, as the Spirit sanctifies us, removing every bit of sin, causing us to live, reflecting the glory of Christ into the darkness of a world that doesn’t know hope.

We are, whether we want to admit it, one, holy, catholic (all of us in all places/times) holy and apostolic church.  This isn’t our work, it is what the Holy Spirit has established and drawn us into, even while we are being saved. This isn’t just a theological teaching or a pragmatic tool to use.  It is our reality, it is where we together explore the incredible dimensions of God’s love for us, revealed in Christ.

Let us pray, as Jesus prayed, that we all may be one!

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 415). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Reformation Day Is NOT Independence Day

Devotional Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

14  I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15  I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. 16  They do not belong to this world any more than I do. 17  Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 18  Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. 19  And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth. 20  “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21  I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. John 17:14-21 (NLT)

Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter.  (1)

236      A firm resolution: to abandon myself in Jesus Christ with all my wretchedness. Whatever he may want, at any moment, Fiat—let it be done!  (2)  

Four Hundred, ninety-seven years ago, a professor at a University posted the above as the introduction to discuss Ninety-Five thesis about Indulgences.

As far as I have read, his intent wasn’t to start a reformation, yet it is the anniversary of the publishing of this event that history notes as the start of the Protestant Reformation.

To quote one of the characters in a WEB Griffin novel, “i regret that it is was necessary”.

Indeed, I dread the celebration of the events that would follow, as the works of Luther went viral. As that viral nature exploded, as the conversation that he was intent on having didn’t occur. As the church began to splinter apart.

Please understand me, I fully acknowledge that the discussion was necessary, the truths that Luther re-discovered, especially that we cannot merit salvation on our own, that God comes to us in our wretchedness,  Yet this was not Luther’s truth alone, and it needed to be understood, both head and heart.

What causes the regret is the division in the Body of Christ.  The idea that one group can be kicked out, while another group can walk away.  An idea that know has morphed into the idea that I can belong to a church, or denomination, and simply ignore that which it teaches that I don’t agree with completely.

Teachings on the sacraments?  Who cares!  Teaching about what is sin, and what isn’t?  Don’t need to bother with that!  Teaching about the gifts of the Spirit and the role of the church?  Why bother, it doesn’t really affect me today, does it?  Teaching about how to care for sinners, based on the love of Christ seen in His treating us who are sinners?  Not necessary, just condemn them as an abomination.   This is what the church has resulted in, because we choose to divide, rather than to reconcile.

Some treat the Protestant Reformation as if it was a spiritual “Independence Day”.  As if it were a celebration a small portion of the church is now completely independent of the body of Christ.  But the Body of Christ cannot be divided, the Invisible church is always that of one Lord, whom we trust in, One faith in Him, one Baptism where we are united with Christ.  Given the ministry of reconciliation, not of further division, and definitely not of celebrating the division.

Celebrate what Luther discovered in regards to the gospel of Christ – AMEN!  An awesome thing to celebrate.  But not the division that occured then, in fact, maybe it is time to have those discussions, to pursue the truth that is found in Christ Jesus, to work to see the Church reconciled in Him, to abandon our wretchedness and find the glory of being united in Him.

Lord have mercy on us sinners….
(1)  Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses.

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1004-1005). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

evangelical catholic – pt. 3 – An interesting comment on fellowship/communion

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.

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