I’m not sure if I should entitle this article “True Confessions” or “Ongoing Reflections”. But I’d like to use this space to share some of my reflections, hopes, concerns, and dreams for the Lutheran Churches of the Common Confession (LC3).
I’ll begin by saying that I am a member of the LC3 steering committee. It has been an absolute joy to work with the people on this committee. We are a bit ad hoc and we really are inventing things as we go. Sometimes our humor is at best confusing. But I’d discovered in the committee people with a heart for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We struggle with what it means to be faithful in our day and age. It is a privilege to share in that struggle.
I became involved with LC3 because I love the Lutheran Church. Perhaps I should take a step back and say that I have been given life in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I love the Lutheran Church because in its theology and preaching the Lutheran Church has given a clear and powerful witness to that Gospel. I’m Lutheran because our Lutheran tradition helps and empowers me to hear and live out this Gospel.
I love being Lutheran. But I find myself living in a time when the Lutheran Church is going through deep struggles over who we are and what it means to be faithful. There are deep rumbles of change in the ELCA, and I’m not convinced that the changes are always for the best. Quite the contrary, I fear that we are moving from our rootings in Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. I’m part of LC3 because I see in LC3 a deep desire to root ourselves in the traditions and depths of Lutheranism, and even more in the Word of God. My hope and prayer is that we in LC3 will be used by our Lord in proclaiming and living out His Gospel.
Let me share with you three dreams I have for LC3. First, I pray that we be a movement deeply rooted in the Word of God. One of the great strengths of Lutheranism is that we have acknowledged that our foundation can be no other than the Living Word of the Living God. We must continue to affirm that foundation.
Second, I pray that we be a movement that calls itself to repentance. Now that may sound a little strange, we are to be a reform movement that begins by reforming itself? But I think Scripture leads us to that. The church at its best always begins in a posture of repentance. From that posture we can call others to repentance as well.
I have another confession to make. I have a deep love for the book of Revelation. (I know that is unusual for Lutherans.) But a section of Revelation that fascinates me is chapter 11. There are 2 witnesses in that chapter, witnesses of incredible power, who call people back to God. But Revelation also notes that these witnesses are clothed in sackcloth. Their faith proclamation begins with their own repentance. It is a powerful vision for me of what the Church is to be.
I pray that we in LC3 can live out that vision. Based on the Word, let’s always be sure we are faithful, and let’s continually call ourselves to repentance. If I’m honest, I have to admit that I need to do that. For example, in some of my discussions/arguments with those of other views, I haven’t been as charitable or caring as I could have been. Or again, I’ve realized that it is all too easy for me to enjoy rumors and innuendos, even if they aren’t fully true. I need to repent. One of my goals in my work with LC3 is to start with my own repentance. I hope that we as a movement can share that goal. As we do, we allow the Spirit to shape us again and again in incredible ways.
Third, I pray that we faithfully and persistently call all people, and especially the ELCA, to Scripture and to the depths of the Lutheran tradition. I believe that we have a powerful opportunity to witness both to the ELCA and within the ELCA. Let’s move onward in mission and ministry with all the boldness and grace that the Holy Spirit gives.
I love the Lutheran Church. I’m grateful to be sharing in the work of LC3. May our Lord lead us onward in faithfulness and grace!
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Mark Braaten