Christian Unity and Boundaries

christian unityThis coming Sunday we will gather with Christians from other churches to worship God together in our annual community worship service.

This practice of Christians from different traditions gathering together developed in the twentieth century and is therefore rather new to the Church. Prior to that time Christ’s from different church bodies largely kept to themselves and were even antagonistic.

Some refer to this coming together as “ecumenism” or “inter-denominationalism.” There are still Christians who reject such “fellowship.” Even so, every church participating has some kind of conditions or boundaries to their participation.

Over the last while the Elders and I have been talking about such “boundaries.” Specifically, our conversation has revolved around who can preach and administer the sacraments in our congregation and who cannot.

Our Lutheran Confessions state that no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called (Augsburg Confession Article XIV). What this means is that only a pastor called by the congregation can serve as preacher and presider or if unavailable, the preacher/presider must be ordained in a church body that accepts the Lutheran Confessions as normative.

In my almost 30 years of ministry I have seen the church offer greater protection to the administration of the Lord’s Supper than to either baptism or preaching. We are willing to let almost anyone into the pulpit, but for some reason keep tight reigns on who stands behind the altar.

Why should the Lord’s Supper be more protected? I really don’t have a good answer to that question except that I think that such a practice makes the Lord’s Supper into something magical and mysterious, the very thing the Reformers opposed.

In contrast to this practice our Confession of Faith limits who can step into the pulpit and preach and who can administer Baptism and the Lord’s Supper in order to maintain a pure proclamation of the Gospel: that through Christ’s life, death and resurrection God has extended the grace of forgiveness, life and salvation to all who would believe this incredible promise.

You may ask, “Isn’t that the gospel all Christians believe? Isn’t that what every Christian preacher proclaims?” The answer to these questions is both yes and no.

Sometimes it is proclaimed, but then quickly neutralized by the “BUT” of the law’s attempt to get us to do something for our salvation. At other times I have head preachers emphasized only morality or various kinds of “self-help” advice.

The reality is that every church sets up boundaries, not to say “we’re right and they’re wrong,” but to confess the faith God has called them to proclaim and live. This is healthy and good.

It is also good to have opportunities like this coming Sunday, to meet together with other Christians to worship the Triune God. Someone will be invited to preach there and as you listen to the message ask yourself, “Was the gospel proclaimed?” If so, thanks be to God.

Paul declares our unity in these words:

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. – Ephesians 4:4-6

One day we will all be gathered together under God’s reign, but until then each Christian community will seek to be faithful to their confession, their understanding of baptism and the Lord and Father of us all.

– Pastor Tim

Noteworthy:

  • Happy birthday this week to: Olga C., Esther S., Helen F., Dale J.
  • Huge Garage Sale for Mission…August 21-23
  • Community Worship Service…Sunday August 24 at the Curling Rink

About TELC

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church is an assembly of about 400 persons whom God has called and gathered into Christian community through their baptism into Christ's death and resurrection in order to participate in God's mission here in Ponoka Town and County and wherever we journey.
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