Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Kingdom of Priests: A Reformation Day Reflection

Fresh off my return from Luther Bowl, I am struck how appropriate the event was for this, the weekend of Reformation Day (for all you non-Lutherans out there, we celebrate today the anniversary of Martin Luther's nailing of the 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg in 1517). This year's was a very UN-Luther Bowl, as only half the schools descended from the German Reformation, while three Presbyterian seminaries seemed to think this was the Calvin Bowl, and Trinity Episcopal managed to hand us our only loss in the tournament. It was a truly Protestant event, short only Anabaptists to make it a full deck of Reformation traditions. Even as we came together as one body to compete together, we yet remained divided and in competition - a sobering reminder that the gifts and prophetic challenges of the 16th century came at the expense of heavy damage to the third article of the Apostle's Creed, "one, holy, catholic and apostolic church."

Its quite fashionable in post-liberal theological circles to scapegoat the Reformation as the source of all of modernity's ills - and often, rightly so. However, blogging for First Things, Peter Leithart reminds us that the many foibles of the movement need not become an excuse to write off the significant blessings it has bestowed on the church as a whole, especially a renewed focus on the biblical truth of the "priesthood of all believers." Leithart laments that the renewal of a sense of the priestly call given each believer in Baptism has led many to abandon the church in favor of private and personal spiritual self-sufficiency, a kind of "get out of church free" card (a perpetual temptation, especially in the new wave of emergent churches who seek to practice a "Sunday-less" Christianity). However, he reminds us that

We are all stationed as guardians of God’s holy house, now identical to the holy people, called to distinguish between holy and unclean and to maintain the purity of God’s household. All believers offer the sacrifice of praise through Jesus, the Bread of God. Every Christian offers the incense of prayer in the holy place of God’s house, and through practices of forbearance and forgiveness we keep God’s house clean. Through using the gifts given by the Spirit, each member of Christ’s body contributes to the edification of the whole.

In the old order, priestly service was housekeeping. In the new order, all are priests, called to the ministry of bodybuilding.

The rest of Leithart's article provides a helpful background into the Biblical contours of the abundant life of serving as Christ's priests, building up the body of Christ, and acting on the truth that “Every Christian is someone else’s priest, and we are all priests to one another.” SDG.

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