Saturday, July 14, 2007

Brother Benedict: What are you trying to say?

There's a sad thing about the state of the post-modern church: it's all the divisions. In recent days the Pope simply restated his view, and what he believes is his church's view, of these divisions. Sadly what our errant Brother in Christ, Benedict, restated is a view that many hope will just disappeared. The current pope, our Brother, reminds us, sadly, that the divisions haven't ended and that to him they still matter.

As a cradle Catholic serving today as a Lutheran pastor I must sadly agree with my Brother Benedict on one account. The church is broken. And it is, as evidenced by his writing, beyond the reach of human repairs. Let us not be naive about sin and its power to corrupt all institutions, including the church and its leaders, even the ones who think they've inherited the power to be above debate or error.

Brother Benedict isn't saying anything new. He is simply restating a limited view of the church that is not based beyond one verse in scripture, practical experience, or plain reason; but in a reified ecclesiastical structure. I say this not because I seek to separate myself from the rest of the body of Christ but because we can not be forced into uniformity in order to create unity. The true church, the Body of Christ, can not be created by humans. We can only be brought together by God working creatively as Father, redeeming sinners as son, and binding us together in the Spirit. Christ's blood is the source of our unity, Jesus alone is the way, the truth, and the life. Our confession of Jesus Christ alone as savior is enough to make us one.

Brother Benedict, and others like him, are seeking safety from the modern world in ecclesiastical and liturgical fundamentalism. They believe that defining truth in something other than Jesus, like a human made liturgy or a human made curia, can keep them pure in a world in which everything is up for debate. These forms fundamentalism are no different in effect than biblical fundamentalism: they seek a source of certainty in an uncertain world other than Christ; they seek to end debate with a trump card that God never gave them or any human being.

What my brother in Christ, Benedict, who has been redeemed by Christ's blood, has missed, sadly, is that Christ is present in both our churches. Christ is present in the Word of God proclaimed boldly and preached boldly. Christ is present when 2 or 3 gather in his name. Priests are not required for Jesus Christ to be present. Sometimes, errant Brother Benedict, they get in the way of spreading the Good News that the Kingdom of God has come near.

Brother Benedict betrays his own inability to discern the Body of Christ. Jesus is present in both our celebrations of the Eucharist as he always has been. Jesus is never present because of a priest's presence. Christ's presence in the Body and Blood that we receive as bread and wine is real and true because he promised to be present in the night of his betrayal. Benedict errs greatly in denying that real presence is based not in Jesus' promises but rather in a human made church.

Brother Benedict I urge you to recant for the sake of the Gospel. I urge you to take off your vestments and to come to Christ's table as I, AND MILLIONS OF OTHER CHRISTIANS DO EVERY SUNDAY, including most Roman Catholic's I know, as a beggar unworthy of a scrap; yet ready to be healed because Christ's body and blood, given and shed for the sins of the whole world, are sufficient. I would gladly break the bread which is Christ's body with you any Sunday. I would gladly share the cup which is Christ's blood with you any Sunday. I would gladly receive you as a brother. Please come there is always room for one more at Christ's table.

1 comment:

Pastor Eric said...

Nicely said, brother.