Blog Archives

Can We Recognize the Ministry of the Average Christian? (and help them accomplish it?)

IMAG0406

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

Devotional Thought of the Day:

11  And to some, his ‘gift’ was that they should be apostles; to some prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; 12  to knit God’s holy people together for the work of service to build up the Body of Christ, 13  until we all reach unity in faith and knowledge of the Son of God and form the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself. Ephesians 4:11-13 (NJB)

Hence the highest office is that of the ministry of the Word, with which all other offices are also conferred at the same time. Every other public office in the church is part of the ministry of the Word or an auxiliary office that supports the ministry, whether it be the elders who do not labor in the Word and doctrine (1 Tim. 5:17) or the rulers (Rom. 12:8) or the deacons (the office of service in a narrow sense) or whatever other offices the church may entrust to particular persons for special administration. Therefore, the offices of Christian day school teachers, almoners, sextons, precentors at public worship, and others are all to be regarded as ecclesiastical and sacred, for they take over a part of the one ministry of the Word and support the pastoral office.[1]  (Italics mine)

Everything that has been said above concerning the People of God is intended for the laity, religious and clergy alike. But there are certain things which pertain in a special way to the laity, both men and women, by reason of their condition and mission. Due to the special circumstances of our time the foundations of this doctrine must be more thoroughly examined. For their pastors know how much the laity contribute to the welfare of the entire Church. They also know that they were not ordained by Christ to take upon themselves alone the entire salvific mission of the Church toward the world. On the contrary they understand that it is their noble duty to shepherd the faithful and to recognize their ministries and charisms, so that all according to their proper roles may cooperate in this common undertaking with one mind.  (Italics mine)

Thirteen years ago, I was installed as the pastor of a Lutheran Church for the first time.  I had served those people for well over a year as a vicar, (basically a student pastor) while going through a time of transition.  I was glad for the 30 months or so of transition, it gave me a chance to work through the differences in theology and the difference in practical ministry.

There were two sermons were given that day, one directed toward me, another directed to me and the people of Shepherd of the Valley.  The latter, given by Greg Seltz was basically about the unity of pastor in people.  A unity that is found in our baptism, a unity that is seen in our mission, our apostolate.  It is not pastor over people or people over the pastor, but pastor and people.  It was a great sermon, and something we need to understand in every congregation, in every parish!

We don’t always get this correct.  Many people think the pastor is the evangelist, the only one that works in what the quote from Vatican II calls the salvific mission of the Church.  Pastors don’t save anyone, neither does the average person, but they are saved by Christ, through the work of the Church. 

We both have roles, even as Walther writes in Church and Ministry ( an incredible nook from the early days of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod).  He says they are to be recognized as ecclesiastical and sacred, as part of the ministry of the Word, supporting the pastoral office.  

Yet there are clergy and laity in both the Roman Catholic Church and in Lutheran churches that don’t understand this.  They don’t get that the ministry is God’s, entrusted to the entire church together.  It is our mutual responsibility, to reveal to the world the Love of God, and God’s desire to reconcile all to Him.   Each has their own role, each has their own God-given place in this ministry. 

Such a responsibility isn’t to be hoarded like Gollum’s precious ring or relegated to the pastor/priest alone, to provide a convenient scapegoat when the church shrinks.  Nor is this responsibility a duty, with checklists and deadlines.  It is best done, when all, so in awe of God’s love, work naturally, sharing it with those around them, and then bring them into the family of God.    Serving together, ministering together, we see the world turned upside down, amazed not just at our love for each other, but the love of God that pours through us, to them.

We, the church, pastor, and people, are here for the world. To reveal to them the greatest treasure, the greatest of blessings, which brings the news of the greatest love, and the greatest of peace.

It is time again, to work as the church, the people of God.

Lord, have mercy on us and help us be your body, reaching out to the world.  AMEN!

[1]Walther, C. Church and Ministry : Witness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church on the Question of the Church and the Ministry. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1987.

Catholic Church. “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.  Italics mine

Ministry, Chalices and the People of God

Devotional Thought of the DayFeatured image
33  I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved. 1  And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:33-11:1 (NLT)

15 Even if we grant the freedom to use one kind or both, how can they make the withholding of one kind mandatory? But the church cannot arrogate to itself the freedom to call Christ’s ordinances matters of indifference.  (1)

On Saturday, I wrote a blog that stirred up a bit of controversy among some Lutherans. The proposition was simply, we share our hope in Christ Jesus because we are transformed to love others, as we live in Christ.  I started with the opposite corollary; to not share the good news which gives us the ability to trust in God for our life, for our salvation, is nothing less than a violation of God’s plan for us not to murder, and the plan that we should love people.

Such was on my mind this morning as I went through my devotional reading. I came to the section of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession where the discussion was about the Lord’s Supper, and that people should be able to receive the Body and Blood of Christ.   This was a bone of contention back in the early days of the Reformation, and some in the Catholic Church mandated that the chalice, the blood of Christ was only for the ordained clergy.  It was a bad enough that some forbid lay people the right to do so.

Not for a good reason, (say perhaps they didn’t have enough wine), or so the Lutheran writers tell us. The confessions make the case that this was because of a religious caste system.  That somehow those who were ordained or pledged to a religious life were different, and the chalice was restricted to them.

BTW – this blog is not to question that practice (the Catholic Church has since clarified it), but a practice that is becoming popular in some parts of the Lutheran Church today.

Instead of denying the people of God the chalice, they deny the people of God the ministry entrusted to the church, the ministry of reconciliation. The ministry that Paul defined simply as pleading with people to “be reconciled to God.”   For some reason, some clergy and some lay people would deny this grace, the ability to see God work through them, to lay people.

It’s not their responsibility, some claimed.  Or you can’t make us do it!  If we read your words and feel guilty, well then you are using the law to make us do it by guilt, another claimed. Ultimately the justification was that the ministry of evangelization belongs only to the clergy.  So you can’t tell us that we have to do it, after all, the clergy doesn’t do it

And people who are broken, who desperately need to know the love of God, are denied it.

Ultimately it comes down to

1)  We don’t see the grace of God, His mercy, peace and love to be so overwhelming, to be so healing that we realize that everyone needs it.

or

2)  We don’t love them enough to respond to their brokenness.

In both instances, the issue isn’t clergy versus laity.  It is simply sin.

We conveniently justify ourselves by laying the burden on pastors and priests, on religious workers and those who are “special”.  It would be like seeing a woman bleeding on the side of the road, and saying, “I can’t help, but there are doctor’s and nurses, paramedics and others trained for this.” as you walk away without even dialing 911.

If this post is causing some stress, some tension in you, if you are getting angry at it, or coming up with ways to justify inaction, ways to define this as something other than a sin of failing to do what one should, I ask you to consider where that feeling is coming from.

Is it a reaction to theology that you don’t like, or

Is it the old Adam rising up again, trying to justify not doing what you know you should?

The idea of denying the ministry to all is wrong.  Yes, there are ministries, preaching and administering the sacraments, which are the responsibility of those ordained to do that work.  But Paul wasn’t writing to them when he wrote about imitating him as he imitated Jesus.  He was talking to the entire church.  And the context is clear – that some might be won to Christ, freed from sin. That is evangelistic, that is the ministry of reconciliation, that is the work God has prepared for those in Christ.

Look around you, see those broken by sin, oppressed by guilt and shame, traumatized and in need of someone to love them enough to reach out to them, and give them hope.

You are there, for this moment… reach out with the love of Christ.  And find God’s grace and worksmanship bringing about what God has planned.. and find yourself more in awe of God’s grace!

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 238). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

The Ministry of the Church, a Shared Experience…

Devotional Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

4  There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. 5  There are different ways of serving, but the same Lord is served. 6  There are different abilities to perform service, but the same God gives ability to all for their particular service. 7  The Spirit’s presence is shown in some way in each person for the good of all. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (TEV)

11  It was he who “gave gifts to people”; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. 12  He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. 13  And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature. 14  Then we shall no longer be children, carried by the waves and blown about by every shifting wind of the teaching of deceitful people, who lead others into error by the tricks they invent. 15  Instead, by speaking the truth in a spirit of love, we must grow up in every way to Christ, who is the head. 16  Under his control all the different parts of the body fit together, and the whole body is held together by every joint with which it is provided. So when each separate part works as it should, the whole body grows and builds itself up through love. Ephesians 4:11-16 (TEV)

Hence the highest office is that of the ministry of the Word, with which all other offices are also conferred at the same time. Every other public office in the church is part of the ministry of the Word or an auxiliary office that supports the ministry, whether it be the elders who do not labor in the Word and doctrine (1 Tim. 5:17) or the rulers (Rom. 12:8) or the deacons (the office of service in a narrow sense) or whatever other offices the church may entrust to particular persons for special administration. Therefore, the offices of Christian day school teachers, almoners, sextons, precentors at public worship, and others are all to be regarded as ecclesiastical and sacred, for they take over a part of the one ministry of the Word and support the pastoral office.[1]

There is often a division in the church that is both unnecessary,

It is said in different ways, but it is the division between laity and clergy.  It has gotten so bad at times, that churches haa abandoned the idea of setting apart of people for service.  Or it has gotten to the other extreme, and the ideas of pastor as CEO (or the older idea of Herr Pastor) comes into play, where all the authority is vested in the clergy.

It’s not supposed to be this way, it is the work together that is the work of the kingdom, there are different role, though some are more visible, or have responsibilities that differ, but the work is done together.  The clergy and the laity are together holy and sacred.  Neither should Lord it over the other, or act condescendingly toward each other.

You see, we have the same goal, to mature in our trust in God, to have our faith “grow” in Christ.  We come to know His love and celebrate His love together, as we share in HIs word, as we are His community gathered around the sacred times where those promises are revealed and made known to be ours.  Theses sacraments require both, pastor and parish, priest and penitential people,

I love how CFW Walther, and early leader in my denomination, phrases it in blue above.

Therefore, the offices of Christian day school teachers, almoners, sextons, precentors at public worship, and others are all to be regarded as ecclesiastical and sacred, for they take over a part of the one ministry of the Word and support the pastoral office.

We are to regard all who serve in ministering to others as ecclesiastical and sacred – part of the church and those celebrated.  We all serve God in the church, we are all set apart to serve the Lord, and our actions are part of His work (see Eph. 2:10)

Do the actions differ?  Yes.  Do the responsibilities?  Of course. But we share in this ministry of reconciling people to God.  We share in bringing them to a place of healing, a place of grace. It is our ministry, not as individual, but as one church.

May we concentrate more on the work, and waste less time on power squabbles and condescension.

Lord Have mercy on us!

 

 

[1]Walther, C. Church and Ministry : Witness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church on the Question of the Churhc and the Ministry. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1987.

Laity, Liturgy and Worship, Spectators or Participants? A vision for traditional and contemporary facilitators

Devotional/Discussion THought of the day:
23 Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man* to enter into his glory. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. 25 Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. 26 Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.27 “Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! 28 Father, bring glory to your name.”   John 12:23-27

We cannot, then, simply be present at a liturgical rite as spectators.… we must become, to an extent, the actors in it. We must therefore see ourselves sitting at table at the Last Supper, standing along the Via Crucis lightning-struck at the mystery of the risen Jesus’ appearances … In any believer who participates in the liturgy there is no sense of remoteness or of being on the outside. Consequently in celebrating the paschal mystery the believer is taken into and overcome by the dramatic power of the ‘hour’ of Christ, ‘my hour’ as he called it (see Jn 2:4, 12:23, 17:1 etc.) (DL 1982: 173).[i]

As I was doing my sermon preparation reseatch yesterday, I came across the quote above in blue.   It struck me pretty powerfully, especially as I compare it to some liturgy and worship I saw this summerFor those unfamiliar with church lingo,  let me define the first three words in our title.

  • Laity – those who aren’t ordained, commission as pastors, priests, deacons, ministers, etc..  In other words, normal people like you….
  • Liturgy – the order to a church service. Sometimes called a worship service or a mass
  • Worship – our response to God’s love, most often thought of as when the church gathers.

Those words in blue struck me, they resonate with me, because that is how I think we need to engage in liturgy and worship – but even more, how we need to facilitate our people’s engaging in liturgy and worship.

Whether it is a song, or the readings or the sermon, it has to be something that engages them, body ad soul and mind.   That heightens their awareness that we – the congregation, is in the presence of God.  That the leaders aren’t doing worship for the rest of the folk to observe,  (which can happen with choirs and praise teams both) that we are praying with the pastor/prayer leaders, that we are bring invited to dine with God….   That this 60-75 minutes is bringing us into the passion and presence of Christ, as much as if we were in the upper room, as much as if we stood at the foot of the cross, as much as if we were on the mountain as He commissions us all to disciple others, baptizing them and teaching them to treasure and guard the revealtion of God that gives them life.

We are part of the drama, the dialogue, and being part of it transforms us.

But this isnt’ easy to do, it takes thought and preparation and consciously avoiding just going through the motions, and most of all…prayer and dependance on God.   Wlaking with Him, being in awe of Him, knowing His presence and longing to see those who’ve come connected to Him.  It can be done by Catholics and Baptists, Non-Denoms and high church Anglicans, Pentacostals and even Lutherans.  In can be done in majestic basillicas, and humble chapels.  In crowds of 10,000, and 5 people at the beach, or in a park.  Rich, poor, whatever class or level of education, whatever ethnic or langauge or music style…. can do this.

It’s about seeing Jesus, lifted up on the cross – drawing us all to Him – for that is what this is all about…

Not just about the forgiveness of sins…
Not just about healing our brokenness..
not just about eternal life in paradise…

It’s about walking with Him.

Not just the pastor, or the music minister, or the praise team…

All of us… with Him.

AMEN


DL Documents on the Liturgy 1963–1979 (1982) Collegeville: The Liturgical Press.

[i] Torevell, D. (2004). Losing the Sacred: Ritual, Modernity, and Liturgical Reform (pp. 170–171). London;  New York: T&T Clark.

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.

Super Heroes….always serve

Devotional Discussion thought of the day…

As I am sitting home sick, I’ve been catching up on superhero movies – reliving my childhood one would say… except the superheroes are far more technological, their challengers even more vicious, the battles far more …. critical, than the ones Adam West and Boy Robin faced. or Chris Reeves.

What they have  in common, these heroes of my youth and the heroes of this day.. they don’t become lords, they don’t govern, they simply serve…they work to bring health to their communities and peace, and indeed to protect them from evil.  Whether it is a global threat – or a child needing to be rescued from a tree, they are there.

There is something at a sub-conscious level that resounds and gets excited by the superhero concept, and I believe it is because we believe we are also threatened.  Threatened by a darkness that would consume us, enslave us, ruin us.  Sometimes that darkness is an external threat ( we often project this on… let’s say – a presidential candidate?  That is why we must vilify them, rather than just base it on issues) Sometimes it is an internal threat – the superheroes today often battle internal demons, (Dark Knight/Batman, the Hulk, Ironman etc) and the difference between Villain and Hero is slim, razor slim.

We have heroes in our midst, the apostles and ministers who reflect light into the darkness.  I don’t capitalize either of those words for a purpose – I am not talking about pastors and priests, bishops and other clergy.  I am talking about the people who are sent by God into the darkness of this world, to reflect the light,t he glory that envelops them, for they have found hope in Jesus. They are more than superheroes – for in Christ, they have become children of the Father, they have been united in Christ’s death and resurrection.  As they live normal lives, they become our heroes, as they pray with their kids, as they sing in the choir, as they help their neighbor and their neighbor’s family as they approach death, as they simply listen to that co-worker, whose life is broken, just as their lives were.. It’s the lady who teaches Sunday School, the musicians who arrive early, the people that greet with smiles and hugs.   They have been “apostled” sent into the place to serve, to minister, on God’s behalf.  Without thought of reward, but to give hope to the hopeless, to bring healing where there is pain, to bring love where there is hatred and apathy…

to bring Jesus, His mercy, His love, His glory….

Who are these superheroes?  Come to church on Sunday, and I will introduce you to some… and we’ll help you see that you are one as well….

%d bloggers like this: