I have been offering my take on the key elements that make Lutheranism a strong and unique way of describing the Christian faith and one that has much to offer people in the 21st century. I have heard that Brian McLaren thinks this is one of the most useful strands of Christian thought for the people of our day – so it seemed worth looking at the stuff in my own tradition and thinking about what it is that might make him say such a thing. Many of the members of my “tribe” have been looking elsewhere for theological work that leads to mission and relevance. What might there be that is worthy of a serious look here?
Over the last two weeks I have mentioned the first two premises on which this is based:
- There is no way to God (period) – God comes to us in Christ.
- Jesus reveals that God is love and shows us the gracious nature of God.
This week’s point is, I think, at the heart of the Lutheran message. It is not universally understood or affirmed. In fact, John Shelby Spong, someone whose work I respect deeply, has said that in his view of God the entire notion of the sacramental nature of life is removed as being no longer an option. But I believe that at the heart of the Christian story is a message of a God who comes and stays, experienced through and present in the things that make up our lives.
So this week’s point is:
3. Life is fundamentally sacramental – The God who comes to us in Jesus has not departed but promises to provide an abiding presence and continue to be present in our world. The incarnation is real and regular. Communion is one particular example of a general truth about the presence of God. As we encounter Christ “in, with, and under” the bread and cup we are also confronted by the Christ who is “in, with and under” the stuff of life. And the baptized, those who are “united with him” (Romans 6) live a life that is identified by this reality as a 24/7 identity. Yet the sacramental nature of life is not limited to being manifested only in and by the faithful – it is true wherever God is at work (in people of Christian faith, other faiths, and no particular faith), but only through the eyes of faith will it be seen and acknowledged for what it is.
Let me know your thoughts.