Some wonderful Lutheran maverics over at A.R.E. (A Renewal Enterprise) just put up a comment on "What’s the golden nugget in Lutheran theology that is the most underutilized?" Their answer, the Priesthood of All Believers, finally got me to say a couple of things out loud that I've been thinking silently for too long. Here's a recap of what I wrote in a comment on their blog:
Well, I agree that the P of AB is the motherlode of underused gold, but I think it’s a lot more explosive than most people think! (Sorry for mixing metaphors there.) The idea that all believers are capable and authorized for all “priestly” ministry - including sacraments - has always been in our theology but only rarely apparent in our practice. Instead, we’ve reserved vast swaths of ministry to professional clergy (like me) “for the sake of good order.” Well, I’ve finally begun to ask “How’s that working out for us?” Put another way, since we don’t seem to be doing well at all in either making disciples or growing them, then what exactly is good about our order? The fact that it's orderly?
Thinking about my answers to those questions led me finally to look at the house church movement, an expression of the Priesthood of All if ever there was one. Plenty of room for unhelpful order there, too, I’m sure! But I have a lot of hope that the results will be better. And truthfully, I think that Lutheranism at its core is built for both house church and the postmodern world. But that’s another topic. ;)
Hi Feral Pastor,
Perhaps not in the visible Lutheran church - but in the invisible church, our practices are changing.
I am a mission developer who practices lay presiding at sacraments, lay pastoring, lay preaching...yup that covers it. Best part is that the bishop doesn't even know...
Change is good!
I'd love to hear more about how your mission development work is progressing. Can you share more about it here? It sounds though that maybe you need to be flying under the radar at this point... if so, drop me a line directly at FeralPastor at Gmail dot com.
I think the "Priesthood of all believers" is in many ways a misunderstood term. I myself struggled with this for a long time, questioned many pastors about it, and am just now (as I continue seminary studies) beginning to grasp what I think Luther had in mind.
I don't think the idea is that we all necessarily do the role of the priest (or pastor or whatever preferred clergy title one has) but that in our daily work we are all called to be doing "God's work" ... It seems for many there is a separation of "church" and "everything else" and I believe that Luther was trying to break down this separation and say "It's all God's ... you can do no other"
With that said, I think where we fail (and I count myself among your Lutheran brethren) is in encouraging people to live "church" outside of the walls and other than on Sunday morning. What would the world look like if we took the same passion for God that we take to Sunday worship to work on Friday (or any other day of the week)? How would that shape how we do our job, interact with others, etc? For me, this is the question raised by the PoAB
I think what you're referring to there is coming more from the "vocation" side of Luther's thought than PoAB. Luther did break down the sense that the daily work of the laity was inherently less of a service to God than what clergy did. So there is a kind of "leveling" there by elevating the work of all the people. At the same time, there's also a leveling of sorts that comes from the other direction as the PoAB "democratizes" (so to speak) the work that had been reserved to clergy. Not that everyone is going to serve as priest vocationally (though there is 1 Pe. 2:9).
So I think Luther works to erase the sacred/secular (Sunday/workday) distinction from both angles which - as you noted - we really need to get back to.
I guess that would be a "both/and" response to your post eh? I guess I'm still Lutheran after all! ;)
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