Lutherans are crystal clear on their understandings of Church and Ministry . . . at least . . . until they begin reading the works of the Lutheran Church Fathers, and inevitably therein, the Early Church Fathers.
Then we begin to get the "We never did it that way before" response, which pretty much tells the tale.
We swerved. We deviated and/or, we maintained deviations. We sought, high and low, for some Words of Scripture that seemed to justify our deviations, that we might rest easy in our conclusions. Our Lutheran forefathers sought no deviations - they sought a return to what the Church of all ages had always taught and believed. They rejected and tried to prevent the dominance of . . .
Law. Self-justification for our self-induced changes to the faith.
Apostolic Succession has to do with one thing, and one thing only - the transmission of the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Church down through the ages. Apostolicity has to do with the διδαχή of Jesus, plain and simple, once authorship is established. The authority is not to the given Apostle, nor is it even given to the Church. It is the Gospel which is the source and means for upholding both the Church and the Apostles in every way. The Gospel belongs to God, in Jesus - period.
Now, this is my personally-held belief, hardly to be elevated to any kind of doctrinal standard, but nonetheless, it is pertinent, I do believe.
We MUST think of the Faith and the Church as being "sacramental" by their very nature. They are both the repositories of grace. For the individual, faith receives the full benefits of the atoning work of Christ in all ways. The Church, then, consisting of those in faith, cannot be anything but the same as well, and both together, work to safeguard and spread the same.
We say we are of the Gospel, when instead, we employ the Law to describe the actions of the Gospel in virtually every circumstance. You must do it this way as a believer or the Church . . . well, okay, if the "Royal Law" is involved as per James 2. But the swervings and the deviations from the actualities of Scripture are not hardly part of anything, really - just swervings and deviations from what it is we should be about believing and doing.
Some will understand what follows, some will not. I have traveled from the Seven Hills to Wittenburg; then to the western shore of the Bosporous, where for some time I sat, transfixed with a longing for a return to roots. Only one who has traveled such a path knows what I mean. I left the first for deviations; and I sat on the banks of the Bosporous because of a misplaced longing to have the touch of the Apostles in some physical form. That probably makes no sense to anyone except one who has journeyed as have I.
But I went back home to Wittenburg, in the end, because Luther and the Church Fathers had really done their homework, and both Rome and Constantinople were given proper responses. Those response were not "Law" -
They were of the Gospel.
Saying so, believing so, might make me seem, in the minds of some, a crypto-antinomian. I understand why such a charge might be leveled - 'cause I really am a Gospel sort of guy. But there is far more to it all.
Ole Mo is a pert good girl. She has had to endure every one of the duckings and weavings spoken of by Chesterton in Orthodoxy (maybe even more than her share). She has endured virtually every heresy, yet emerged - not unscathed, but wiser and the better for it all, and she is STILL learning. My Church has warts; my wife has warts; I deeply love them both, warts and all, and would not trade either. It is not inside me, nor within the Royal Law, to do so. And I, too, have warts - far too many for my liking.
How can I change things that are not up to par in the Church? I need to change "me" first of all. I need to be willing, as was the Good Samaritan (Jesus), to scoop up the wounded man, place him on my donkey of limited faith, and transport him to the hotel/place/hospital/sanctuary (Church) of "getting better" - and I must be willing to pay the freight. If I, the single most individual member of the Synod/Church, am not willing to be what the Gospel says I must be in Christ, Who has relieved me of the burdens of the Law, how can I possible pontificate about the wrongs of the Church? Cue Chesterton again:
"What's wrong with the world? I am!"
Because I harbor no illusions about my own sinfulness, I am able to see the warts of myself and the Church and even further, see the need of the Gospel and the Great Commission and absolution pronounced copiously and a good pop from the pulpit and a serious kneel-down at the very altar of God to take in the Lord of the Universe to try again to get it right - week in and week out. If we who demand faithfulness of Synod, even as we look in the mirror and see that the Old Adam keeps re-surfacing from the waters of Baptism, are not willing to demand the utmost of our own selves and faith, then we best not be very quick to cast stones in any direction.
Sweet Mama Lou calls it "poop-patrol." Three dawgs, lotsa poop. Yet in a way, even though we have to clean up after "Mah Bubbies" - my pups hear my voice and heed me almost instinctively. That is not something I, the most individual member of Synod/Church, is "inclined" to do for my Master. I have to have the Law smash down on this thick Irish skull, and being the preacher down yonder here, I have to beat myself first, so I can again realize and appreciate and glory and wonder in the mercies of God, and see His Kingdom yet again - even if from afar. But I also know it descends upon us at the altar - together with the angels and arch-angels and all the company of Heaven . . .
The dogmaticians might come out in force against this cri de coeur. So be it. Been shot at by really big guns, so BB's ain't gonna kill me.
I'll put it this way:
If you wear the backwards collar and lead from on high (altar and pulpit), then speak always the truth of God. Your opinion will not get a single soul to Heaven - it's God's opinion that matters! Work that Bible Study to death! Do not pound the pulpit . . . pound those words of your sermons until they are a pleasant sound to God Himself - which will ensure they are also a pleasant sound to your flocks, which have been entrusted to your care. Realize how huge a deal that is!
If you lack collar, but have the sincere love of God for the Holy Church/your Synod/your congregation - put on your best suit and tie of faith, and don't try to be boss, or come with the"ideal" solutions for the Holy Church/your Synod/your congregation - just scoop up the wounded man, place him on your donkey of limited faith, and transport him to the hotel/place/hospital/sanctuary (Church) of "getting better." Pray for him. Pray for yourself. Pray your pastor will bring good news. Pray God to love you. The last most of all!
Do that, and your Synod will be the best it can be in this world. We are still the Church Militant, and that we have the problems we do is proof-positive that the devil is really pissed off at us for still getting the Good News as we do.
That is a very good thing.
Work out your faith with fear and trembling - because you have to, anyway. But do it unto the Lord. Leave the results to Him. He's a big boy. He knows what He is doing.
Last I checked, He was quite reliable about following through on His promises.
Solus Christus . . . pb
18 September 2012
A friend sent me these
ruminations and with permission I repost them:
Posted by William Weedon at 1:29 PM