One In Christ

The following is the article I wrote for publication in The News Tribune (Tacoma) for Sunday, May 16. To God be the glory!

I am beginning to become unsettled by something I am starting to see develop in this country. Recently, in the state of Washington, the governor has announced increased capacity for venues that have “vaccinated sections”. People would have to provide proof of vaccination. This is just the beginning of those vaccination passports about which we have been hearing. People would be divided – vaccinated people versus “those people” over there. It is a disturbing move as we begin to label people and, dare I say, segregate them. I understand (or at least I think I do) the spirit of this move. Many people are hesitant about these vaccinations because of how quickly they were developed, and our leaders want to encourage more people to get vaccinated in the interest of public health. There is also a sense of urgency to open things up since we are all very tired of the restrictions. But I also see a very slippery and scary slope when systemic separation of people is normalized in such a fashion. Are we really okay with this? Will people openly and wantonly accept this? How should Christians feel about this?

That final question is what I have been pondering recently. As a Christian, no matter your feelings on returning to some sense of normalcy, separating people like this should bother you. It should bother you because it is not biblical. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are united together in the true vine (John 15:1-17). And then we have the apostle Paul in Galatians 3:27-28, For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, there is neither vaccinate nor nonvaccinated, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. I fear there will be churches that will adopt this worldly mentality and create “vaccinated sections”. May that never happen. Even now in this world, may wiser heads prevail and not try to lead us down the segregation highway. Yes, returning to normalcy is desirable, but separating, labeling, and shunning people for not getting vaccinated is not the answer. How can we call ourselves the “United” States if we are not united? I am not suggesting that we are united now, but systemic labeling of people is not going to help. But even more than this little word in the name of our country, in Christ we are united forever.

In Christ, you are simply labeled a redeemed sinner and crowned with the title, ”Child of God”. There is no hierarchy of sinners. There are no levels of “children of God”. We are one in the Spirit; we are members of the same body; we are children of the same God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Politics aside, let us come together and remain united as Christians as a witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the oneness that we share in Him. To God be the glory, always and forever, Amen.

Racism Crap

I don’t know about you, but I am tired of this racism crap. Oh God, help us. Oh God, send Your Spirit…

Creator God,
You created us in Your image;
we are Your children.
May we cast aside all prejudices that separate
and begin to see that we come from the same family line.
We are not different species
even though we may look different or act different
therefore racism has no place in the world
and especially in the Church.
May we seek unity not division;
community not factions.
May we go out and seek the lost
in the name of Jesus,
no matter who or where they are.
May we be one as You are one with the Holy Spirit
and Jesus Christ,
in whose name we pray,

The Pastor -|—

The Church and unity

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!