It seems that everyone in the world (this may be a SLIGHT exaggeration) has been talking about the recent Vatican statement about the true nature of the Church. By now my comments may be old news but I still feel lead to make some comments in response and to share my faith, so here I go:
Why am I a Lutheran? This is an interesting question and one that I believe every Lutheran needs to ask of themselves every day. Even if you are not a Lutheran, answering why you are part of a particular denomination is important. Recently a brother in Christ, Chris, has embarked on a very important journey; asking this very same question. He is a former Lutheran making the move to the Catholic Church (follow the link and check out his blog to read more about his journey). I may not agree with some of his answers, but we are still brothers in Christ and I still have a great deal of respect for him. Chris is asking questions and not taking anything at face value.
And even though the Vatican has issued a very stern statement about the "true nature of the Church" I still have a great deal of respect for all my Catholic brothers and sisters. Rome may have their firm stance on what constitutes the Church and Protestants have theirs but behind all the rhetoric, we are all still brothers and sisters in Christ. We acknowledge "…one holy catholic church…", we uphold scripture and believe in salvation through Jesus Christ.
As Lutherans we have varying doctrines that Catholics are not going to teach such as: the priesthood of all believers and simul iustus et peceator (simultaneously righteous/saint and a sinner) among others. But what ever our differences, Jesus prays that we may be one "My prayer is not for them (the disciples) alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one…" (John 17:20) I believe in Jesus Christ though the witness of the first apostles. I am every bit a part of the Church. Jesus died that I may live and no one can take that away from me.
But what does it mean to be one…the Lutheran Confessions assert:
Concerning the Church:
"It is also taught that at all times there must be and remain one holy, Christian church. It is the assembly of all believers among whom the gospel is purely preached and the holy sacraments are administered according to the gospel.
For it is enough for the true unity of the Christian church that there the gospel is preached harmoniously according to the pure understanding and the sacraments are administered in conformity with the divine Word. It is not necessary for the true unity of the Christian church that uniform ceremonies instituted by human beings, be observed everywhere." (Augsburg Confession VII)
What is the Church?
Likewise, although the Christian church is, properly speaking, nothing else than the assembly of all believers and saints…" (Augsburg Confession VIII)
But we cannot end with a quote from the Lutheran Confessions for they are not the sole authority in our lives. I believe in the authority of scripture so let’s hear what the apostle Paul has to say: "If you confess with you mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." (Romans 10:9-10) Faith comes first through the Holy Spirit and our confession follows.
Through faith we are one. Jesus is our authority and I believe we can celebrate that as common ground if nothing else. So why am I Lutheran? It is a question I ask myself everyday. I take nothing for granted. But in the end I am a Christian…AND…in the end…denominations will not matter. We are brothers and sisters through faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So let’s celebrate THAT and move on in proclaiming this Good News.
Praise be to God, always and forever. Amen!