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The Laity and the Clergy – proclaiming the gospel together! Evangelical Catholic IX

English: Woodcut of the Augsburg Confession, A...

English: Woodcut of the Augsburg Confession, Article VII, “Of the Church”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Revealing rather Lecturing: Evangelical Catholicism II

Devotional Discussion Quote of the day:

Yet the hard fact is that “The Church teaches . . .” is language destined to fall upon deaf ears in twenty-first-century cultures of radical subjectivity, in which the highest authority is the imperial autonomous Self. “The Gospel reveals . . .” is a different matter. “The Gospel reveals . . .” is a challenge in answer to the critique of the very idea of “revelation” mounted for the past two centuries by the high culture of the West. “The Gospel reveals . . .” is a challenge not unlike the challenge posed by Jesus to his disciples on the road to Caesarea Philippi: “Who do you say that I am?” [Mark 8.29]. By throwing down a gauntlet in the form of a proposal, “The Gospel reveals . . .” demands a response. That response may, initially, be skepticism, even hostility. But it will likely not be indifference. Moreover, if the truth, proclaimed clearly and fearlessly enough, has its own power— as two millennia of Christian history have shown—“ The Gospel reveals . . .” may, at the very least, be a conversation starter— unlike “The Church teaches . . . ,” which sets off every modern and postmodern and antiauthoritarian alarm bell in minds and hearts formed by the ambient culture of the twenty-first-century West. Evangelical Catholicism understands that there is an inherent connection between divine revelation and the Church: “The Gospel reveals . . .” eventually leads to “The Church teaches . . .” But it gets to the latter from a distinctive starting point. Evangelical Catholicism begins from an unapologetic confession of Christian faith as revealed faith—“ the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us” [1 John 1.2]. 5 That eternal life, that Word of God that has come into history in search of us, is “what we have seen and heard” [1 John 1.3]. (1)

I’ve had 11 courses in preaching – from 4 in my junior and senior years of Bible college, to my Master’s program – to 5 Doctoral Level courses where I was paired up with a mentor who was a mega church pastor.  (the ratio in those classes was 5:1)  In a lot of those courses, the style of preaching was similar.  We preached the word “authoritatively”,  that is, we were the experts.  We knew the Greek and Hebrew.  We were trained to dissect the text, and put it together in a way that would apply to the lives of those people. Indeed, one of the best classes was in how to comprehend the lives of our people.   Often times we included quotes from the great preachers, John Chrysotom, Martin Luther, the Wesley’s,  Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the modern guys like John Stott, or Chuck Swindoll, or Ken Korby or  and of course Spurgeon – using their wisdom and ability to thread words together into beautiful tapestries and shore up our weak points.

Some lessons ran counter to that… and those are the ones that make the above quote resound

My first preaching teacher, Doug Dickey, told me once that every sermon has to share the love of Christ, to not worry about being brilliant, but simply show those listening about Jesus.
Juan Carols Ortiz, my mentor in the doctoral level program, told me not to lecture, but to tell a story, that walks the people along the road with Jesus, allowing them to get to know Him, to feel His love, His gentle correction, and even the joy that He feels, as we respond to that love.
And WMC  introduced me to the style of preaching that is considered the distinctive approach of Lutheran preaching – to afflict those comforted in their sin, and comfort those afflicted by their sin. (see Walther’s “The proper distinction between Law and Gospel”)

Those rules can work within a standard presentation, whether it is a sermon, or over a glass of diet coke/coffee/tea/beer.  But in each of those roles, we are pulled out of the model of the lecturer, the one who says the Church (whether Catholic or Lutheran ro Calvary Chapel or Baptist) says… (or its stars say) to reveal to those we are in dialogue with the incredible person of Jesus Christ, the One who is the way, the truth and the live.  Not as what I think of him, but as how He has revealed himself to us, through the scriptures, through the very word of God, given to prophets and apostles, that they would reveal to us the living Christ, to invite us into His presence.

There is a big difference there, that as Wiegel says leaves the post-modernist and the skeptic with something that strips their post-modernism and leaves them, a human being needing to get to know this Person.  It causes the one who says they want to be spiritual but not religious with the insight that you can’t divide your knowledge and practice – because God gave us both, in order to be in a relationship with us, revealing in us each – our ability to trust Him, and that we are entrusted to Him.

So my brothers who preach, and to all who share the gospel, it is time for the Apocalypse – no, not the end of times horror stories of novels.  But what the word really means – to unveil the Lord Jesus Christ, to reveal the height and depth and breadth and width of the Love of God revealed to us, to the people who so desperately need to know it.

And may all who do this, whether Lutheran or Catholic, Reformed or Wesleyan, Baptist or Pentecostal, rejoice as Christ is made known…

(1)  Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 30). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

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