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Reformation Day, A Day I Pray Would Become… Obsolete.

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.

Wittenberg All Saints' Church. The "These...

Wittenberg All Saints’ Church. The “Theses Doors”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

The Necessity of Teaching People Worship and the Liturgy: Evangelical Catholic IX

Jesus Christ Crucifix

Jesus Christ Crucifix (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

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