Wednesday, September 14, 2011
An appraisal filled with sadness...
With Pr Weedon I find myself at one and the same time closer to some outside Lutheranism and than to many within Lutheranism. There is a commonality among those often called "traditionalists." They seem to take things seriously -- the Church, confession of faith, the liturgy, Scripture, the tradition of faith that surrounds that Scripture, etc... Some who post on this blog from Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, and Orthodoxy share a common spirit with us Lutherans seeking to be the Lutherans of our Confessions. At the same time, it is our deep and abiding sense of the Church and our appreciation for differences in confession that keeps us from being one together at the altar. Yet, this broken unity is met with great regret and sadness. We bleed for the division among us and pray for the unity of confession that will lead to our unity at the Table.
I fear that there are many within Missouri who feel little sadness or regret about the brokenness among Lutherans or between Lutherans and other Christians. Their words may say that they are sad about the divisions among us but some of them act rather pompously and arrogantly as if such division were a mere consequence of being right and others being wrong. I find that I do not have much in common with the spirit of these folks -- even though I may have much in common with their confession. Unless we regret and are heavy in heart for the divisions among us that keep us divided at the Table, we are not the people of love our Lord envisioned for His Church. In a sense, we may be right but in being right we dishonor the Church and the Lord of the Church anyhow.
I fear that there are many in ELCA who feel such sadness and regret that they have chosen to minimize and overlook honest and real differences in confession. It is painfully obvious that there are those who can commune with the Presbyterians, UCC, Reformed, and others who do not speak the same language as Lutherans about the presence of Christ or the very nature of the Sacrament of the Altar with little pang of conscience or fear. Such papered over divisions weaken the whole structure of the Church and empty the Confessions of their meaning. They make Lutheranism an historical identity instead of a living confession. The Confessions, the liturgy, and the Scriptures become mere markers in the past and no longer the boundaries of faith and faithfulness for Lutherans, and held in trust by Lutherans for the whole Church. What it even sadder is that they delight in testing communion fellowship boundaries as if to taunt Missouri -- like it were a game and not the serious business it truly is.
While we respect close(d) communion in this parish, we do practice careful and deliberate pastoral care to those who come to us from outside our confession and yet are baptized Christians of the Nicene Creed who have examined their lives and consciences and desire to receive the very Body and Blood of Christ at His Table with the desire to amend their sinful lives. We act not as gatekeepers to prevent but as stewards of the mystery to enable all those who commune to receive full benefit of their participation in the Body and Blood of Christ and to reflect the unity of the Church that flows from common confession and not patched over differences.
Love must do both -- it must respect and honor the differences and yet keep up the conversation and work to restore a harmony of faith and practice. It is this very goal that I believe is behind the Koinonia Project within the LCMS. I hope and pray that the divisions among us Missourians -- that make it seem that I am closer to some outside my own confession than within -- will be repaired and we can rediscover the unity and unanimity that once marked our life together. Again, the hearts of those coming together must first be filled with sadness and regret over the division before there can be any real progress to restore unity.
Having learned to speak the truth in love together, it may well equip us to speak more clearly and more effectively the truth in love to those outside our confession. Again, it is my hope and prayer that the starting point of this conversation is the honest regret and sadness over the sad divisions among Christians today. Arrogance and pride are not only the enemies of unity but the stones that will cause us to fall.
So there it is... my own wounded heart for those with whom I share so much but cannot yet share the Table of the Lord... for those within my own church body whose different confession, liturgy, and practice makes them aliens within their own confession... for those who have chosen to settle for a unity which expects diversity and ignores common faith and practice (simply because they cannot wait for the true unity to come)... With the Lord in His high priestly prayer, our divisions themselves cause us to pray evermore that we may be one as the Father and the Son are one....