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.