Friday, April 09, 2010

"It's Who We Are; It's What We Do"

Today on Facebook my friend Chris posted a link to this discussion on the Duke Divinity School's Call and Response blog about what, if any, practices are mandated by the Christian faith. Blogger Scott Benhase identifies the following as some baseline normative Christian practices with Scriptural and historical chops, that cross denominational and doctrinal lines:

  • Participating in the Eucharist on the Lord's Day
  • Offering hospitality
  • Forgiving sins against us
  • Testifying to the faith that is in us
  • Serving the poor

Of course we Lutherans' brains tend to short-circuit at the very thought of tying our Christianity in a conditional way to doing stuff. Because, we argue, it's not about earning points by doing stuff.

Here's the thing, though. What if the "doing stuff" is not about earning points at all, but rather inviting people in our faith communities into a series of basic intentional practices that will help them live into their baptismal promises?  Is there a way we can articulate this that won't degenerate into a merit- or shame-based to-do list?

Discuss, please! What do you think of this list? What, if anything, would you add to it or subtract from it?

Photo by Bill Potter, Lutheran Church of Honolulu


altar ego said...

I think that offering hospitality, forgiving sins and serving the poor (and others in need) are ways to testify to the faith that is in us. It is also being part of Jesus' ongoing ministry of reconciliation. That, to me, is the summation of what we are called to do as Christians. How we do that depends on our gifts, the environment in which we find ourselves, and the support of a community that values the same. IMO, off the top of my head.

Auntie Knickers said...

I would definitely agree with the last four, but, although Communion is important to me, I consider Quakers Christians -- and they do not do sacraments.

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

This is a good list, and it is good to think about what we do because we NEED to do things....and what does that mean, are we commanded or do we do certain things as a response? Yes, there are many Christian groups that don't do communion all that often, if fact, in the history of the Lutheran church, there were times when it wasn't frequent. There are Lutheran groups that refuse to offer communion to other Christians, even those who clearly follow all the beliefs and things on your list.

I have attended some services with other groups that were wonderful, but I missed both the confession of sins and the communion. I would have a hard time attending those services regularly because of what wasn't there.

But it still comes down to what is it that God wants us to do???

Tom in Ontario said...

There's the old joke about the Lutheran on his deathbed who told his pastor, "Don't worry, I never did a good work in my life."

I think we sometimes make being a Christian too easy. I might add stewardship to the list. While we don't do stuff to earn brownie points God does expect something from us. It's about discipleship.

Michael Foss identifies the following marks of discipleship:
- Daily prayer,
- Daily scripture reading,
- Weekly worship,
- Growth in giving to the tithe or beyond,
- Serving others in Jesus' name,
- Sharing the faith story with the unchurched.

When Jesus called his disciples to follow him they dropped their nets and left their tax booths and followed. He didn't say "Do what you want and call yourself a Christian."

Our Lutheran Confessions are clear that we don't earn God's favour but they're also clear that our faith should produce good fruit. The Christian life should look different from the non-Christian life.

Bill said...

Dear LutheranChik--I can't find any other way to contact you, so I'll use this form. It says you have to approve comments, but I don't actually want it posted.

You have an interesting blog which I stumbled on following google search. While reading I discovered the picture for your April 10 blog, which is taken from the worship page on the Lutheran church of Honolulu website which I maintain. I took the picture. I am happy to give you permission to use the picture if asked, but I don't believe you have asked. Please write to me at

Bill Potter