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 A Word from the pastor

  

"Being Lutheran in a Mixed Bag of Church Affiliations"

Or "Why I Remain a Confessional Person of Faith"


First: Our biblical God is from beginning to end, a world oriented God. We do a great injustice to think otherwise. God keeps interacting with the world.


Second: The church is the messenger. Its message is conformed to Jesus Christ. When the church turns inside to itself, we fail as disciples of the Lord whose face is turned to Jerusalem.


Third: As the church, we must confess our faith within the context of the present. What we confess is authentic humanity by grasping Jesus who was the one who had "to suffer" and be rejected in order to find the glory of God in humanity.

Our confession is related to what is wrong with the world. The church cannot be isolated or insulated from the needs within the world in order to confess our faith. This calls for disciples of Jesus to be in conversation with the world and among themselves. Confession is a verbal affair.


The church is the representative of Christ. The church does not possess Christ, but is possessed by Christ. The church in mission represents the life of Jesus Christ in the world. The church is always becoming and never static.


Jesus is the head of the Body. Therefore, it is not a matter of keeping the church alive. When we talk in this fashion, we show signs of the loss of the Holy Spirit. The church is always in a state of becoming what God wants us to be. (Luther's prayer.)


The problem in North America is that people expect the church to be an ideal. But the problem is that the church is always in a state of being cleansed. It never is wholly clean. Our expectations get in the way of becoming what God wants us to be.


The Holy Spirit makes the church real. The Holy Spirit cannot be possessed nor stored up, but must daily be ingested-like manna from heaven.


We need "justification by grace" at the end of life as much as in the beginning of life. As Luther reminds us, we are always at the same time justified and a sinner. This is not a process of growth, whereby we keep growing more-saintly. We are continuously and daily in need of God's Grace.


Our society, like our churches, is ruined by the assumption that time brings increasing good. Our future could be worse than our past. We may fall in the trap of submitting to our present technology and other fixes we devise to make life better. This can be a disillusion on our part. We can become just as much entrapped and possessed by these accomplishments.


If Hope is dependent on a gradual expulsion of evil and sin and death, then it is deceptive. We repress our true hope. Our Christian hope is built on nothing more than Christ on the cross where the will of man and will of God become one. Our will must daily drown and be destroyed for the will of God to begin to work within us. It is our daily struggle. Though we are saved by Christ and our true humanity is restored in him, our will still struggles against God's will. We still want to save ourselves and the world rather than allow God to be the agent of that activity.


THE TRUE CHURCH

Conservatism: Insist that boundaries are markings of the true church. The church is quite strict. Members of these churches find it hard to sustain their own certitude. Boundaries are often so exclusive. There are many conditions required of its members.


Liberalism: The church becomes more and more universalistic. To exclude is bad. To include is good. Decisions by a few is bad. This ultimately creates a plethora of churches calling themselves Christian. To become Ultra-liberal, ends up taking no position at all. It ends up being a belief system without any content or direction. There is no confession at all as to what to believe.


Luther and those of us who follow within this tradition are a confessional church. We have a Trinitarian Faith based within the confessional creeds: The Apostles' and Nicene Creeds being the two basic ones.


The marks of the church are that it is "one", "holy", "catholic" and "apostolic" in nature.

For Luther (Augsburg Confession, Article VII). The signs of the True Church are:

+ The Preaching of the Word

+ The Right Administration of the Sacraments.


"One" Church means that all alienated churches become "one". The identity of the church of Jesus Christ is not with a congregation's ideals or principles, but the return to the Lord of the Church who makes us "one" through the Holy Spirit. This is not a law that demands this, but the Gospel that calls us to be "one".


"Holy" Church means to be set apart from the ordinary. It is transcendent and mysterious. The church is the fellowship of those who are "called out" of the world, "set apart" from the world which means to be "sent" into the world as the new humanity in Christ who are daily being cleansed. We are not separate from the world but are being cleansed to proclaim to others the need to be at one with God. We are made holy through the sacrament of baptism. This now becomes our "calling'' (vocation) to be children of God in the world who constantly know our need of God. Hence our return to the sacrament of the altar. (Luther goes so far as to say that whoever separates themselves from the sacrament of the altar by absenting themselves from it ought not to be called Christian since they would depart from that relationship and forgiveness of God and live their lives in their own ways.)


"Catholic" Church means that the church transcends all earthly boundaries that separate people, nations, races, ethnic groupings, genders, political allegiances, etc. The church shapes a common confession in Jesus Christ. The church embodies an incarnational (word of God in the flesh) openness to all that is part of God's good creation. Christ's parish is the "world". Globalism and not chauvinism is the calling of the Church.


"Apostolic" Church is addressed to the Gentiles (Ephesians 2:19-20). They are no longer strangers and aliens, but citizens with all the saints. They are members of the household of God because God declares it. Apostolic means that it is testified in Scripture.


WORD AND SACRAMENT: The Word is the preaching, the proclaiming, the meditation by using reasoned persuasion which is addressed to one's inner self and not to the senses. Our society is conditioned by images and one liners. It is hard for us to concentrate otherwise. Scripture reminds us of the children of Israel who grew impatient with Moses and his "speaking" and "writing"- so they turned to Aaron who is an example of what happens in churches today. Like Aaron, we give people what they want. The "successful" North American churches tend to duplicate a sensory atmosphere of TV talk shows or quiz programs. It is an atmosphere of performance. The Hebrew people of scripture mistrusted making images. They concentrated on hearing and speaking to defy human ability to possess and dispose of God.


MARK OF THE CROSS: The true Church is a Suffering Church. Luther insisted on it. Bonhoeffer exemplified it. Suffering is a consequence of discipleship. It is the marking of the disciples of Jesus standing before all humanity as God's representatives. As North Americans, we are fed on the need for progress to alleviate suffering. The consequence is that we do not take to our conscience the pain that is there. We want a theology of glory to bypass the pain rather than face it with a faith of true hope. As disciples, we confront the world with the cross by unearthing its evils and calling it back to the grace of God . We confess Jesus Christ, who alone saves us by taking away the evil within us and the world and restores us to a right relationship with God. We hear him proclaimed and we eat and drink with him at his table. We bear the mark of the cross on our forehead and we make its sign on ourselves as our remembrance that through the cross of Christ alone am I saved.


WE ARE JUSTIFIED BY FAITH ALONE. From this confession, comes everything else.


Pastor Tim

                                                         

  

  

 



 

 

 

 

 

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