Reclaiming Lives for Christ Through Healing and Growth Ministries

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE LUTHERAN? Rev. Ana Beck (Former RLC Pastor)
 
“What does it mean to be Lutheran?” is not the whole question. Unless we add: in the Body of Christ, we end up seeking to define the Institution rather than discovering our function in God's Plan of Salvation. I think we have not taken time to really immerse ourselves in the question of what it looks like to be created in the image and likeness of God. Image speaks of the parts. God is a Trinity, and we too have three parts to our makeup: body, soul, spirit. The soul itself is trinitarian: mind, emotion, will. Is this accidental? I think not. These parts are given to us so that we can indeed be creatures after God's own image. Well and good. But what about likeness? Likeness refers to function. We all have the parts of God, but until we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we most certainly do not function like God, using all our parts to think, behave, imagine, and operate towards Truth and Grace. After the Fall, those parts got disengaged and scattered. As we well know, the mind can conceive of one thing and the emotions come along and throw it to the wind. We will one thing and the body seizes control to cause the opposite. St. Paul knew all about this, and discusses it in a way that makes it very clear that the likeness of God can never be invented by our efforts. This forces us to admit that we are creatures of a creator. A master workman creates all the parts that make up a car. The pieces are scattered on the garage floor. Those pieces will never, ever rise up and put themselves into working order. The workman is the one who must create order out of chaos, and who knows exactly how the pieces fit together to get that car on the road toward a destination. Having these kinds of discussions in our congregation, we have asked the question: what does it mean to be Lutheran in the Body of Christ? Where do we begin in discovering what our exact function is to be according to God's Plan? We could think about what we would like to do. We could get excited about a particular task. But without a good hard look at our history, it is an exercise in wishful thinking. Our history is Martin Luther at a particular time in the past, when God was distinguishing a new function in his Body. A body, as we know, begins as an amorphous, formless chaotic mass (sound familiar in creation?) and, little by little, specifics begin to emerge. Organs, eyeballs, toes, circulation – all emerge at specific times in order to form an identifiable person who, when all the parts are put together correctly, can function according to the laws inherent in being a human being. What was going on when God formed the Luther-function? Well, what did Luther have to do? It seems he had to act in the capacity of white blood cells whose job it is to encounter, identify, destroy and remove rogue elements that seek to contaminate and dis-ease the body. Perhaps the Lutheran function is to be the immune system of the Body, protecting it from infectious agents.
Our congregation was formed, before we had these function discussions, out of a circumstance in which certain determinations had to be made regarding what it meant to be Christlike, identifying the agents of contamination. Of course, at the time, we had no idea that the Lord was teaching us how to
“function” in his Body. The only way we learned this was to follow our deep desire to study, learn, and apply his Word. Well, study, learn and apply are exactly the functions of white blood cells: they circulate in the blood and tissues, recognize foreign matter and act to annihilate their power to cause disease. This seems to match what Luther did. Immersing himself in the Word of God, he was enabled to identify the wrong beliefs that were cancerously growing, hurting God's people, and he acted to
stand against and repel these pathogens. Not every congregation would be excited about this level of study but we are, and that tells us that we have received this assignment from God. So we focus on the Word of God, gleaning from it how God intends for us to apply that Word to our everyday circumstances. With various courses of study offered to the community, we discover, together, how to identify in ourselves, in our society and culture those elements that are weakening and corrupting the image and likeness of God. What would happen to the Church if each denomination and congregation became clear about why they exist and what their function is? It sounds like a lot of work, but it is up to the Lord of Life to enlighten us and enable us to discover and put into practice the very function that will bring life to us and to those we serve. There is nothing so restful, so satisfying and so effective as being who you are meant to be.