Wednesday, April 06, 2005

"That They May All Be One"

I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. -- John 17:20-21

For anyone who listened to Jesus' High Priestly Prayer during the readings of Holy Week, or read today's Gospel lesson, and sighed, "Yeah...that'll happen" -- a few recent breakings-through of the reign of God here in Lutherland and elsewhere to cheer you up:

Lutherans and Eastern Orthodox finding common ground: A book causing a big buzz in Lutheran circles these days is Christ Present in Faith: Luther's View of Justification by Finnish theologian Tuomo Mannermaa. Mannermaa's thesis is that Luther's view of justification by faith can be harmonized with the Orthodox concept of theosis, or divinization -- the idea that Christians, achieving union with the person of Christ, participate in the fullness of the life of God, becoming actual partakers of the divine nature, rather than simply having grace imputed to them. (LutheranChik feels as if she's writing a term paper; her palms are becoming moist as she wonders if she actually wrote what she meant, and if what she meant was actually what Mannermaa says in his book; it ain't exactly "Justification for Dummies.") Now, this may sound like the sort of theology-geek, angels-dancing-on-heads-of-pins stuff that drives average laypeople into the arms of the nearest happy-clappy megachurch...but it's a huge concept. For one thing, it provides new talking points in our ecumenical relations, especially with Eastern Orthodoxy, which I think has been something of a terra incognita for most Lutherans. Mannermaa is also helping reclaim the inherent mysticism of Lutheran Christianity, which has taken a beating over the decades both from what some might characterize as the soulless deconstructionism of the academy and insipid populist piety, and that has the potential to reconnect us with the mystical tradition of the historic Church. And Mannermaa's book may help our tradition strengthen what I think is its weakest theological link -- the connection between justification and sanctification, between "saved" and "saved for what?" Lutherans have historically had, because of our emphasis on grace and rejection of anything that might even suggest trying to earn our way into God's favor, a hard time articulating the transformative nature of the Christian experience...even though Luther himself wrote quite emphatically on this subject. Mannermaa will help give us, I think, another new voice with which to express the concept that, as Kelly Fryer puts it, "Love changes people." Melancthon Sins Boldly and The Thinklings have both featured thoughtful posts on this book in recent weeks.

Lutherans, Episcopalians and Catholics getting together. A bit closer to Outer Podunk, where I live: in one of the communities here in the middle of the Michigan mitten, the local ELCA, ECUSA and Catholic parishes have enjoyed very cordial relations for several years, doing everything from pulpit exchanges and joint worship services to interparish fellowship activities and educational opportunities. This past Reformation Sunday, they held a Service of Reconciliation in which the clergyperson of each parish read a confession asking forgiveness for the various ways in which his or her tradition had hurt people in the other traditions; I'm told it was a very powerful, moving event. A few weeks ago, the three parishes entered into a formal covenanted relationship with one another, saying in effect, "No matter what happens in any of our denominations, this is how we want to continue to relate to one another as sisters and brothers in Christ." You can read all about it at In these days of fractious relations even within our three traditions, this example of three congregations embracing their catholicity in embracing one another is good news.

Lutherans and Methodists getting together. I Am a Christian Too reports that the ELCA and the United Methodist Church may soon enter into "interim Eucharistic sharing." This is something of a moot point, since both our denominations practice open Communion now, but it would formalize ELCA and UMC congregations' holding joint Eucharistic worship.

Lutherans engaging the "emergent church." Xphiles has an interesting discussion going on about the "emergent church," what Lutherans can learn from it and what it can learn from us.

Meanwhile, this week two more of my favorite blogs, Father Jake and The Topmost Apple , feature some thoughtful ponderings on what this is all about

Is it just me, dis a movement?


Dash said...

I liked the story of the three parishes. I found the web site for the Christ the King church, and was delighted to discover that I know the founding pastor of that church, Roger Hardy. Fun! I'll have to forward the link on to him. Thanks! (I do so enjoy these nth-degree-of-separation things!)

LutheranChik said...

Hey, I once hugged someone who once hugged Desmond Tutu...that's my best nth-degree story!

Dash said...

Want a second-hand handshake from Alan Ginsberg?

LutheranChik said...

Hey, I'm impressed!

"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by obsessive-compulsive blogging..."

Wait...that's not how it goes...;-)

PPB said...

cool blog.

LutheranChik said...

PBB: Thanks! And right back at ya...anyone who lists books, the Indigo Girls, John Rutter and theology on their profile is cool in my book. (I'd have mentioned the kitties, too, but...well, my dog has issues with C-A-T-S, so we really don't discuss them in our household.;-))

bls said...

I'm delighted. Actually, LuthChk, I think you'd be interested in this article called "Recovering Mother Kirk." This seems to be part of that general movement we think we see towards a return to formal liturgical worship, even among many Protestants who'd never have gone that way 20 years ago.

(When somebody says that "Many look to Rome, Canterbury, or Constantinople. Hart believes they should look to Geneva." - they're referring to you guys, right?)

I think the Pope's funeral may expose many more people to this, too. Just a hunch.

*Christopher said...

Thanks for this post. I know more Lutherans are making that recovery of the rich traditions of Lutheran mysticism too often obscured by a long-term scholastic, dry academic approach and sometimes, on the other hand, a syrupy piety.

LutheranChik said...

Bls: Thanks for the link. "Geneva" refers to our friends over in the Presbyterian and Reformed traditions, but it's another manifestation the same phenomenon; people dissatisfied with superficial/halfhearted worship (that, to quote that famous theologian Bob Seger, "ain't got no soul"), wanting to "dig deeper." I know awhile back, not long after the ELCA and several church bodies in the broad Reformed tradition entered into altar and pulpit fellowship, I got to know a Presbyterian who was moderator (like council or vestry president)of his church, and he noted that one of the interesting results of this new relationship was his own church's revisiting of sacramental theology. Hanging out with Lutherans made them want not only to celebrate Holy Communion more often in their own church, but made them want to reexplore how their tradition understands Communion; they felt that they had lost that connection to their own theology.

And...interestingly, not too long ago I found myself explaining the "whys" of liturgical worship to an online discussion group of mostly conservative Baptist lesbians. Talk about your Dear Diary moment.;-) Yes indeed, the Spirit is stirring up some interesting zephyrs out there.

LutheranChik said...

And thanks for the link. It made me think of that Presbyterian friend, whom I haven't talked to in ages...a lot of the same thought.

LutheranChik said...

Christopher: Having grown up covered in syrup, LOL, and later burned out on the soulless academic jot-and-tittling...yup; things needed to change.

Mark Allen Powell, from I think Trinity Seminary, has a relatively new book out called "Loving Jesus" that sounds like a good read -- from what I've heard from reviews and from persons who've read it, it calls for a mature kind of piety -- a falling in love with Jesus that avoids the sap and sentimentality; it sounds really like an invitation to Christian mysticism. Fisher's Net has a link to a free online discussion of this book starting in May. I am too swamped with reading and other things to add this to my calendar, but I might just listen in on the conversation to see if I'd like to read this myself.

bls said...

The Orthodox have some seriously kickin' prayers. If we could exchange some of those - definitely including all those exclamation marks!!!! - for, say, some Anglican Chant Morning Prayer settings, I'd be really, really happy.


LutheranChik said...

There are aspects of Orthodox spirituality that I find very, very appealing. I know that there are some irreconcilable differences between their tradition and ours, but they might take comfort in the idea that the yeast of their spiritual practice is helping the dough rise elsewhere in Christendom.;-)