15 October 2007

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

It would also mean the end of the notion that what the Confessions say of church government is fulfilled by having a clever - alas, all too clever - central church bureaucracy running things not by the Word but by force.

All of this must pass away and will pass away, just as church government by princes as summi episcopi disappeared overnight.  But the holy ministry, preaching repentance and forgiveness, and the congregation of the faithful, who in faith are justified sinners - that will remain.  The future may involve forms which we today do not know about, but which the Lord of the church is preparing amid the thousandfold suffering of contemporary Christianity.  He is His body's Savior even when we see only dissolution. Still true are Luther's great words about God's way in history:  "By putting to death He makes alive."

This faith in what God is doing does not exclude our responsibility, but rather includes it.  This means renouncing everything that is destructive of the genuine ministry instituted by Christ and the genuine congregation instituted by Him, everything that makes of Christ has instituted a place for exercising our lust for power, whether clerical or congregational.  The office of the holy ministry is not lord over the congregation (2 Cor. 1:24); the congregation is not lord over the holy ministry (Gal. 1).  Both are under Him who alone is Lord; in Him they are one.  

--Hermann Sasse, *We Confess* vol. 3, pp. 82-83

1 comment:

Timothy May said...

Thank you for this quote. The relationship is like that of Christ and His Bride, the Church. Also, it is primarily spiritual, meaning that the relationship is there for the spiritual benefit of the people. The pastor has a God-given role in this regard. All of the physical workings of the Church are done in thankfulness to God for His gifts, to support the spiritual work of the holy ministry or to help the neighbor in need.
The (over-)emphasis placed on the "right" polity these days is not helpful in that it takes the eyes off of Christ and what is happening in the ministry of the Church. This emphasis often distorts the true picture of the Church by inadvertently(?) placing an emphasis on a "political" (polity) position, whether that of pastor or congregation, over the ministry itself.
To show that our historical characterization, may, in fact, not be true, those who belong to what are historically "heierarchical" churches may not, find anything wrong with what Sasse says in the final paragraphn above. At the same time some within the pale of Lutheranism may consider the authority of the congregation/assembly, at times, to be above that of divine revelation.
Undoubtedly, these examples cloud the issue, but has not the issue already been clouded when the ministry, positively portrayed here by Sasse, is undermined by an insistence on a "correct polity or structure" (something which the Confessions themselves avoid doing) and this search becomes the focus and an end in itself? The goal of finding an institution that works smoothly (are we there yet?) has the accompanying danger of gutting the substance of the ministry it is there to uphold.
Could it be that, with specific regard to the ministry, at the Reformation we threw the baby out with the bathwater, and we will perpetually be asking this or similar questions from now until the Last Day? I think this is quite possible. That is why I find Sasse's words that you share here refreshing.