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 http://www.gladwinmi.com/placed/story/04-05-2005covenant.html 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 anyway...love.
Is it just me, or...is dis a movement?