We’ve come up to Leeds for the weekend to stay with my parents, and this morning I paid a visit to St Luke’s Lutheran Church for their morning service.
St Luke’s is a congregation in the Lutheran Church in Great Britain (the UK’s LWF-affiliated Lutheran synod), and it was interesting to see the similarities and contrasts with the ELCE. It turns out that “the other lot” share the odd Lutheran predilection for sitting down for hymns, and the Lutheran Book of Worship is so similar to Lutheran Worship that it’s almost eerie (though not surprising given that the two books emerged from the same process of liturgical revision). It was a non-communion service, which helped avoid any awkward moments about intercommunion…
It was also good to meet blogging ordinand Doorman-Priest, who was leading the worship, in the flesh. Though I stupidly forgot to ask what his name was when we spoke afterwards: D-P, if you’re reading this, any chance you could email me with the secret of your mild-mannered alter ego? 😉
The main reason for this post though is to share the following quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from Pastor Mark’s sermon. The sermon text was John 17:1-11, and the sermon emphasised Jesus’ words about unity as relating to the need for mutual love and community among Christians in the face of the world’s hostility and persecution (rather than (mis)interpreting Jesus’ “that they may be one” in institutional terms). As the pastor put it, we need to “rub elbows” with one another, and he quoted the following passage from Bonhoeffer’s book Life Together:
God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of a man. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth.
He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation. He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ. The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure.”
It’s so important that the gospel, the Word of God, should come to us principally as a living, spoken Word. Reading the Bible is good and beneficial for us, but it is secondary to hearing the Word, hearing the promises of God declared audibly to us. It is that living Word which both requires and creates community, the community of the church, of those who proclaim and hear the gospel together.
Without that constant renewal by the spoken Word, our faith (or “the Christ in our own heart”) inevitably grows weak, because Christ has not willed or promised that we should be able to keep our faith in him strong in the absence of the Word proclaimed among our fellow Christians.