Printer Friendly

The God who made the world.

Let us recall the assignment from the Hein Fry committee: to "identify especially promising scriptural foundations on which a Lutheran theology and practice of evangelism might be constructed." This is not evangelism itself but theological interpretation in service of evangelism.

When we "interpret the present time" by observing Lutheran social realities in North America, we see a community with a largely northern European history, now shifting from rural to urban, with a diminishing and aging membership. With the secular pundits we observe Christendom's decline. In rising world Christianity, we also hear dislocated cultures protesting globalization. (1)

Seeking scriptural foundations for "a Lutheran theology and practice of evangelism" is not denominational romanticism or desperation. This is a venture in faith in God who is stirring the church. Dwelling in the scriptures, we do not hope for Christendom restored, but we see God already hearing the prayers of the Centurions, the jailers, the sellers of purple, today. God's mercy restores the earth itself to the called.

Precisely because of the mission context, our seminaries are now challenging the criteria of excellence we received from Friederich Schleiermacher at the University of Berlin. The hegemony of the academic disciplines is being transformed into a ministry of preparing leaders for Christian communities. Just when our denomination is struggling to sustain direct support, these institutions are collaborating as never before in regional clusters and in building an ecumenical distributed learning system called The Fisher's Net. Who would have believed it, even fifteen years ago? With the blessing of our Division for Ministry and following the lead of many congregations and bishops, we have been moved beyond old comfort zones, together, risking our futures as teachers and institutions for a missional Lutheran church. The people of the church are engaged with us. As a business leader said, "If you are actually going after it, count me in!"

These Hein Fry lectures enter a rich deliberation among Lutherans concerning Evangelism Today. When Edgar Krentz and I accepted the invitation, we received a letter from Dr. James Scherer, emeritus missiologist from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago and author of Gospel, Church, and Mission. (2) Along with others such as David Daubert of the ELCA Division for Outreach (3) and Edward Schroeder from Seminex, Scherer has helped us probe the evangelical strengths of the Lutheran tradition for ecumenical missiology. (4) In turn, drawing upon Luther and Bonhoeffer, Timothy Lull from PLTS called for a vision of mission for the local congregation involving "both deepening discipleship and at the same time engagement with the world in the structure and risks of daily life." (5)

Patrick Keifert's distinctive vocation as a public theologian was already evident in his book on Welcoming the Stranger. (6) With others on our faculty, he and Craig Van Gelder (7) teach our students to be theologically interested in the demographics of the communities they are called to lead.

Sociological, economic, and ethnographic data raise the question "What is God doing in this place?" Keifert is conducting ecumenical consultations through his company called Church Innovations. He seeks "a theologically framed, social scientific understanding of congregational mission." God's mercy is masked in apparently brute facts. Our theological frames are the bifocal lenses through which the Lutheran tradition discerns God's saving activity in justification and God's care for the world through the vocations of the baptized. In the "present time" God is calling and sending the church in apostolic mission. Evangelism Today is not about guarding Lutheran boundaries of doctrinal purity but about going public from the center: Christ, crucified and raised.

Martin Luther expressed this conviction boldly:</p> <pre> If I profess with the loudest voce and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point at which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing him. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace if one flinches at that point." (8) </pre> <p>Luke's story never indulges Israel or the church in denial or heroism. Israel's fall was as real as the messiah's execution and Jerusalem's destruction. "But we had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel," they said. Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God restored Israel's vocation, not its dominion. Jesus "opened their minds to understand the scriptures and he said to them, 'Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem" (Lk 24:21, 45-47)

The third evangelist invites us into a story of what God is doing, gives insight into this mission as the fulfillment of God's promises, and inspires our testimony to the public gospel truth. With the travelers to Emmaus, we read the scriptures and interpret the world in the light of Easter.

Paul's speech in Athens is a public confession, a scriptural foundation for every generation's faith and practice of evangelism. Paul in Athens also interprets the world as God's creation, destined by Jesus' resurrection to be restored as the arena of God's justice and mercy. Listen:</p> <pre> Acts 17 (16) While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply distressed to see that the city was full of idols. (17) So he argued in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and also in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. (18) Also some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers debated with him. Some said, "What does this babbler want to say?" Others said, "He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign divinities." (This was because he was telling the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.) (19) So they took him and brought him to the Areopagus and asked him, "May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? (20) It sounds rather strange to us, so we would like to know what it means." (21) Now all the Athenians and the foreigners living there would spend their time in nothing but telling or hearing something new. (22) Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, "Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. (23) For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, 'To an unknown god.' What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. (24) The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, (25) nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. (26) From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, (27) so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him--though indeed he is not far from each one of us. (28) For 'In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we too are his offspring.' (29) Since we are God's offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. (30) While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, (31) because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead." (32) When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some scoffed; but others said, "We will hear you again about this." (33) At that point Paul left them. (34) But some of them joined him and became believers, including Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris, and others with them. </pre> <p>Our first observation is that Paul makes a classic Jewish judgment about idols. Peter was aghast at being told to kill and eat unclean animals. Paul is "deeply distressed" or "provoked in his spirit" by the many idols. Luke does not explicitly cite from Leviticus for Peter. Neither does Paul directly quote the prophetic denunciations of idols. But Israel had been there before, and the prophets were not dispassionate about idols. Listen to the words of Isaiah:</p> <pre> They do not know, nor do they comprehend; for their eyes are shut, so that they cannot see, and their minds as well, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, "Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals, I roasted meat and have eaten. Now shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?" He feeds on ashes; a deluded mind has led him astray, and he cannot save himself or say, "Is not this thing in my right hand a fraud?" (Isa 44:18-20) </pre> <p>"So," says Luke, Paul "argued in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons and also in the marketplace." What about? Paul and Silas also got themselves in a mess with the silversmiths in Ephesus when Paul said "that gods made with hands are not gods" (Acts 19:26). In both cases, Luke sees the idols in the context of the marketplace. Perhaps Luke judges the Hellenized Jews in Athens and Ephesus for getting along by going along. This prophetic stance fits Paul's words to the Romans condemning those who "exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles" (Rom 1:23).

Prophetic religion is often iconoclastic. The radical reformers in Germany shattered the marble images of the saints. The Ayatollahs blasted Buddhist shrines in Iran. In Thomas Friedman's economic view, this is "how the age-old quests for material betterment and for individual and communal identity--which go all the way back to Genesis--play themselves out" as the Olive Tree contends with the Lexus, sometimes to the point of holy war. (9)

Luke is not naive about the economic impact of the Christian mission. He tells of Simon's attempt to buy divine power (8:9-24), describes the outrage at financial loss of the Philippians who owned the fortune-telling slave girl (16:19), and even calculates the value of the magic books that were burned in Corinth at "fifty thousand silver coins" (19:19). Luke's story, however, is not an economic expose but a disclosure of the gospel truth.

Thus, our second observation is of Paul's regard for the theological concerns of Greek philosophies, but not without sharp edges on both sides. We have noted Paul's pique at the idols. You also can hear Luke's disdain of the Athenians and other foreigners who "spend their time in nothing but telling or hearing something new."

When the philosophers call Paul a "babbler," their insult is an elegant wordplay in Greek. The Stoics were focused on the "seminal reason of the universe," the spermatikos logos. They regard Paul as a spermologos, a seed picker, searching for words. In turn, Paul was on the firing line with the philosophers, calling them unknowing in their worship, even ignorant (Acts 17:30). But these words run deep. In early Christian Platonic testimony, the negations express profound faith, the alpha privatives of God: "immortal, invisible, immutable, impassive, and unchangeable." Andre-Jean Festugiere said of the philosophers, "the supreme object of knowledge, the final degree of our metaphysical investigations, the term on which all the rest depends, is an object which defies definition, and hence cannot be named. It is the Unknown God." (10)

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

A. H. Armstrong described the context in which Hellenistic philosophy was formed following the massive dislocations of the Greek and Roman empires. Wrenched from hearth and home where life, death, and identity were once as secure as the soil, now common and educated people alike were expected to be cosmopolitan, ready or not. Try as they might, many were simply anxious, yearning for home, swept away by cruel fates.</p> <pre> The sense of isolation, rootlessness and insecurity was ... strong enough to set many people looking for a rule of life which would give them a sense of inward security and stability. This the new philosophies of the Hellenistic period proceeded to supply. They differ in their recipes, but they all claim to give to their followers the same good under different names, a self-sufficient, imperturbable tranquility proof against all the shocks and changes of Fortune, the shifting restless insecurity of human affairs. (11) </pre> <p>The "recipes" of the Epicureans and the Stoics differed from each other. Epicurus saw religiosity as a source of fear and pain. If there are gods, and Epicurus thought there were, they must be blessed, immutable. The goal of life is pleasure, that is, "the absence of pain in the body and trouble in the soul." "Death, therefore," said Epicurus, "the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not." (12) The Epicureans were the flower children of antiquity.

The Stoics were dutiful. Their physics were their existential ethics. The goal of life is to live in accord with nature, kata physin zen. Nature, physis, itself is pervaded by a living fire of reason, logos. Therefore, "when reason by way of a more perfect leadership has been bestowed on the beings we call rational, for them life according to reason rightly becomes the natural life." To live rightly in accord with nature is thus to live in accord with reason, kata logon, "an artistically working fire." Their deliberations were detailed about what was truly necessary and what was indifferent, or an adiaphoron. The wise are thus free as kings, practicing "irresponsible rule," but that meant life so disciplined by reason no governance was required. (13) All of which was very noble, but this life was deeply controlled.

Some of us are good Stoics. Do you use a Franklin planner or read Stephen Covey on The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People? (14) I do, knowing that the Mormons are the American Stoics. Perfection is as close as hard work. When teased for using a Franklin planner, Professor Diane Jacobson of our faculty replied, "Yes, I use it, but I don't inhale."

The Epicureans and the Stoics were Paul's interlocutors in Athens, and, to the delight of every academician since, Paul took them seriously. It is noteworthy, however, that the argument Paul advanced did not fit either of their recipes for the human condition as closely as that of the Platonists.

Listen again to Paul's rich description. God "made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God, and perhaps grope for him and find him--though indeed he is not far from each one of us" (Acts 17:26-27).

This is not Stoic duty where, like a dog tied behind a cart, you are free to run from side to side but if you fight it the cart will drag you anyway.

Is salvation more than flight from the pain and passion of life? As Festugiere saw, the Hellenistic philosophies expressed a yearning to escape, "to leave this earth, to fly to heaven, to be like unto the gods and partake of their bliss." In their middle-Platonic meditations on Plato's Timaeus, the goal of the ascent of the soul was a passionate search to be one with God. "Since the soul comes from Heaven it is of like nature with the stars, and since the stars present an eternally regular movement, wisdom must consist in putting the movement of many in accord with those of the stars." (15)

Yes, Luke's Paul is a faithful Jew, agitated by the idols. Yet somehow he got beyond the mutual insults to hear the spiritual longing in their quest. Peruse the spirituality section at Barnes and Noble. The yearning is palpable. If only for a moment, a flash of insight, if the heart could take wing, if the mind could ascend, a noetic hand reaching up to escape the bonds of earth, a finger of thought straining to touch the face of God, if we could grope to the stars and beyond, perhaps we would not be eternally alone, unforgiven.

Paul brings the gospel down to earth, full of faith, hope, and love. He affirms Jewish scriptural faith in the goodness of God's creation. Contrary to ancient Gnostics and New Age gurus, the earth is not a prison to be escaped. Christians who revel in the late, great planet Earth have missed God's love for creation and Jesus' resurrection as its restoration. In remarks on his book The Resurrection of the Son of God, N. T. Wright echoed Paul in Athens:</p> <pre> People tend to think Christians are against the world. But what the Resurrection says is that God intends to remake the world.... The point of the Resurrection is that God has defeated evil and corruption and makes resurrection available to Christians and ultimately to the whole world." (16) </pre> <p>This presentation is in significant agreement with Wright's masterful New Testament interpretation. Without accepting all of his historical verification, we must cheer his focus on the particularity of the history of Jesus, crucified under Pontius Pilate. "A truly first-century Jewish theological perspective would teach us to recognize that history, especially the history of first-century Judaism, is the sphere where we find, at work to judge and to save, the God who made the world." (17)

The world is not divine, requiring Stoic resignation before the powers. The human struggle is redeemed by God coming into the world God created. While human beings are groping upward to find God, God has dignified this "whole Earth ball," as one child called it, by Jesus' death and resurrection.

This gospel is far from obvious in the first or the twenty-first century, especially in its hope from the apparent underside of history, refusing to be co-opted by any empire. The victors have long claimed God to be on their side, justifying the destruction of the vanquished. Why is Paul, in chains before the Roman Felix and Festus and the Jewish king Agrippa, still full of hope, eager to share his faith even facing death (see Acts 24-26)?

In Luke's context, Evangelism Today meant telling the story of hope on behalf of a defeated people in an imperial Rome corrupt in its power. The Jewish war fought by Vespasian and Titus, who then became emperors, was the eastern quagmire, like Viet Nam or Iraq for the American empire. Anguishing costs in resources and lives were compounded in political deceit.

Following the horrors of the siege of Jerusalem, the Jewish historian Josephus simply caved in to the Roman theodicy. God had gone to their side. He glorified Roman vengeance in the triumphal procession featuring Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian on mounted steeds in magnificent apparel. Led in a halter, the Jewish leader was scourged and executed at the Temple of Jupiter. "The triumphal ceremonies being concluded," says Josephus, "and the empire of the Romans established on the firmest foundation, Vespasian decided to erect a temple of Peace." (18) That's imperial confidence!

It is also easy to see why, ever since, Jews have despised Josephus.

Many others in the empire were also distressed. The Greek academic Plutarch, for example, was outraged by Roman arrogance and corruption. He saw "The Delay of Divine Vengeance" as the gift of time for repentance. But the last word from the gods for such hubris will be vengeance.

In Luke's narrative, however, the one who "will judge the world in righteousness" (Acts 17:31) is the Messiah whose vindication means the giving of repentance to Israel and the nations. The public euangelion, the news, is God's righteousness perfected in mercy. As Paul announces so hopefully to Agrippa, "by being the first to rise from the dead," Jesus will "proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles" (Acts 26:23).

Paul's rhetorical flourish at the end of his speech in Athens often is discounted as inept, suddenly coming down hard. Because the translation of verse 30 reads "God commands all people everywhere to repent," it is hard to hear repentance as gift. But Paul in Athens is echoing Jesus' promise to his disciples in Luke 24:47 and Peter's promise to Israel in Acts 5:31. "God has exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins." The gospel promise in Athens is conveyed in the declaratory verb apangelein. God announces repentance for "all people" not to enforce submission but to inaugurate the restitution of justice, now. The resurrection of Jesus is the guarantee. Identifying Jesus as the one by whom the world will be judged is a divine promise to the world of God's righteousness, fulfilled in mercy. The apostolic witnesses are ambassadors of mercy to sinful people and a world deserving condemnation. The resurrection signals God's purpose to be justified in restoring all.

In my first lecture I explored God's justification of the ungodly as a missional strategy with regard to peoples and cultures, converting the church to God's purposes. God's radical mercy of acceptance of a nonobservant Gentile is compounded by his being a Centurion. Cornelius is one of ten or more Centurions mentioned in Luke-Acts, and all the others except the one whose servant Jesus healed (Luke 7) were agents of the execution of Jesus or the imprisonment of the apostle. (19) God's gift of repentance is gospel indeed.

Acts 17 is also an evangelism text, communicating God's promises beyond boundaries, and the good news of the gospel has further benefits for the world. Paul's confidence in God's creation places this story at the foundation of the vocations of God's people. Jesus' resurrection reveals that the God who made the world still loves it. The restitution of justice begins now, awaiting the restoration of all promised by Israel's prophets (Acts 3:21).

God is creating a trustworthy world and calling people to the work. Jesus' resurrection is the scriptural foundation for the gospel of vocation. The benefit of the resurrection is not only that we go to heaven when we die. We also are called and sent as collaborators in God's creation of the world.

Justification and vocation are the twin pillars of the Reformation. They also are paired foundation blocks for Lutheran Evangelism Today.

James Nestingen spoke recently to our midwinter convocation on "Justification, Vocation, and Location in Luther's Reformation." He began with Luther's paradoxical proposal, echoing Paul: "A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant subject to all."(20) Then, following Bernd Moeller and Steven Ozment in part, he developed a lucid analysis of how Luther's "doctrines of justification and vocation shaped a witness that spoke to the urban migrants in the midst of their dislocation, providing a deep sense of identity in their new context." Nestingen's conclusion illumines our analysis of Acts 10 and 17:</p> <pre> The doctrine of vocation properly follows as a necessary partner of justification. Restoring the creature to the creation as part of the larger act of retrieving the earth from the thrall of those powers that have demeaned and destroyed it, the risen Christ calls his own into the life-bestowing, creation-sustaining vocations of everyday life. (21) </pre> <p>Evangelism Today means practicing Christ's extravagant hospitality of welcoming sinners--that's everyone--and sending saints--that's everyone, too--into their callings to be the hands of Christ in their lives in the world. The story of Paul in Athens illumines this good news in at least three ways.

1. The God who created the world has restored us to it. Pastor D. Michael Bennethum has published a fine little book in the "Lutheran Voices" series, titled Listen! God is Calling! (22) He joins a growing chorus of voices who declare Lutheran theology and practice of vocation to be central to the missions of our worshipping communities. Many of these voices are familiar in the ELCA. Bill Diehl, Sally Simmel, Marc Kolden, and Robert Benne have been public interpreters and critics. Their witness echoes Luther's affirmations of our place in God's creation, indeed our places: in home and family; in our work, paid and unpaid; in our public roles and responsibilities; and in our worshipping communities.

We don't have a temple with a high priest or a kingdom with a ruler. Neither did the apostolic church or the early Reformation movement. We do have faith in a down-to-earth God who created the world and raised Christ to restore us to our places in the world. We have holy awe for the mundane.

Lutherans have a vigorous mission in higher education, not merely to protect the young but to equip the saints for lives of witness and service. With an amazing infusion of support from the Lilly endowment, many of our colleges are striving to turn their attention to educate diligently for vocation. Our campus ministries in public universities are places to "learn together what it means to be the church not only in a wisdom (e.g. educational) setting but in society." (23) Some just hope to outlast the fad and return to the "serious academic work." Some will learn Parker Palmer's spirituality of teaching and learning. (24) Paul in Athens presses every discipline to strengthen God's care for the world. (25)

2. God is not far from each one of us. As Herman Stuempfle has noted, while Martin Luther was protesting the view that only the clergy have holy callings, "Our problem today is not so much the sacralization of vocation for a few, but its secularization for all. Vocation means simply one's job." (26)

The problem is still larger. More people are dislocated or displaced from their native lands and livelihoods than ever in history. Even many who have work find little satisfaction in it. The icons of consumption turn human beings into interchangeable parts. Our secular idolatries yield both anxiety among those who can never get enough and the desperate rage of terrorists tying bombs to their bodies. Who can save us from this body of death?

Our awe for the mundane also means holy regard for all we meet. In a consumer society, we treat people as customers--not all bad if you're buying. But how will we deal with others, family members and strangers, in the faith that God was at work in their lives before we showed up? With what eyes will we see the man mowing the hotel lawn or the mother with her children in the market or the scientist in her laboratory?

Like Paul in Athens, we will respect sincere human efforts to reach toward God and to nurture our souls. Also with Paul, we will show regard for spiritualities of ascent as yearnings for the God who came to us in the flesh of Jesus Christ, not by our effort but as gift and promise. Thus we will also resist spiritual escapes and pieties that degrade the world or our mortal bodies.

Who will help us remember, "God is not far from each one of us"?

Evangelism Today means our congregations have work to do. Millions of baptized Christians are already in their places in God's world. Are their communities of worship preparing them to fulfill their callings?

At Luther Seminary, with the aid of Thrivent, we are engaged in an initiative called Centered Life. This effort is networked with the ELCA, several synods, our seminaries, colleges, and hundreds of congregations. It is built around ten pathways by which congregations either empower or block their capacity to equip the saints for callings in the world, Connecting Sunday to Monday. This abundance of missionaries relies on the promise "God is not far from each one of us."

3. God will have the world judged in righteousness. The bunnies and bonnets of the public version of the Easter season are depressing, primarily because of their vast denial of death. Mel Gibson's film about Jesus' crucifixion offended many. The news of his resurrection is not self-evidently good news, as if Jesus merely escaped death. Peter's hearers were first "cut to the heart," sensing their complicity in the violence. The good news comes in the declaration that by raising Jesus God was giving Israel and all the peoples of the world reprieve, a return to God, leading to a restoration of God's justice.

While we were yet sinners, bound as we were and still are in sin, Christ died for us. And in raising Christ Jesus from the dead God's mercy continued for us and for the world. We were set free to walk in newness of life, to get on with it. Your salvation is a promise to the world.

Every person's vocation matters to God, counts ultimately. The gospel does not end with your salvation, or even your neighbor's. Believing leads to belonging in a community of forgiven sinners, all of whom are called.

Still, many people lament, "My pastor has no idea what I do from Monday to Saturday. My congregation is set up to serve itself." Christ's resurrection sends his body into the world. Centered in Christ we are not yearning to escape the world or pursuing inward journeys of the soul. While those around us were practicing spiritualities of ascent, Christ came down, sending us to the places where we could touch their lives with his love.

Remember Ananias? Like many others in the Bible, he objected to the calling God gave him to go find Saul. "Lord,... I have heard how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem." "But the Lord said to Ananias. 'Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel. I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name'" (Acts 9:10-18).

Our homes and families are not idyllic havens but places where God calls us to live daily in forgiveness and love. Jesus did not promise that it would be easy. As a youth leader said, every household with a teenager is in crisis. But our Lord has promised to be with us, never far from us.

Our work, paid or unpaid, is often drudgery, but making the world a more trustworthy place participates in the joy of heaven in work well done. Our lives as citizens are called beyond the politics of self-interest to justice for the least. We have reason to be theologically interested in one another's callings. Our differing callings are dignified in serving the God who made the world. We hope to be chosen instruments serving God's desire to save all people.

Imagine millions of Christians leaving worship every week going into homes and families, public roles, and hundreds of thousands of work places, politics, schools, hospitals, industries, finance, construction, you name it. God's people are the hands of Christ in the world God loves. It is time we paid attention to what it takes to be Christian in high school and to weigh the law and gospel with attorneys and healing with health providers. We say "Go in peace, serve the Lord!" Do we then ask "How did it go?"

In the twenty-first-century world of many cultures and religions, God is calling and sending the church of Jesus Christ into apostolic mission. This is an era of rampant secularization, reducing the soul of faith to economic gain, in the ascent of the Lexus. This is also the century of the rise of world Christianity, with Olive Trees of faith bearing irreducible hope in the God who raised Jesus Christ. The final act of this complex is not written. In raising Christ Jesus from the dead, God has given the world back to us and us to the world. We have meaningful work, collaborating with God in creation. And God will have the world judged in Christ's righteousness.

For Lutheran Christians, dwelling in the commands and promises of God's word, Evangelism Today means disciplined commitment to two things:

1. Every Christian community where the word is preached and the sacraments are administered is called to be turned outside of itself, extending God's radical hospitality to everyone yearning for God. Only sinners need apply. God knows Cornelius by name and will send apostles to find him.

2. Every worshipping community is commissioned to send its forgiven sinners to serve the God who made the world. Equipping the baptized for their ministries in the world is a confession of faith in Christ's resurrection.

David L. Tiede

Luther Seminary

dltiede@msn.com

1. See Thomas L. Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree (New York: Anchor, 2000), 11, where he summarizes "the essence of globalization economics" according to Schumpeter and Grove: "Innovation replaces tradition. The present--or perhaps the future--replaces the past."

2. James Scherer, Gospel, Church, and Mission (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1987), 47: "In the new era of global mission, the movement will be from everywhere to everywhere; every country will be a 'home base,' and every country a 'mission field.' Each church will both send and receive. Every congregation will be a mission structure, and every Christian a witness for Christ."

3. See David Daubert, "Martin Luther's Mission Theology: A Glimpse through the Lens of His Introduction to the Gospels," an occasional paper written in 2002 to be distributed within congregations.

4. Edward Schroeder, "Some Thoughts on Mission Drawn from Luther and the Lutheran Confessions," in The Role of Mission in the Future of Lutheran Theology, ed. Viggo Mortensen (Aarhus: Centre for Multireligious Studies, 2003), 31-37.

5. Timothy Lull, "Preface: A Tribute to Tim Lull," in The Role of Mission, ed. V. Mortensen, 4-5.

6. Patrick R. Keifert, Welcoming the Stranger: A Public Theology of Worship and Evangelism (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992).

7. See "A Missional Understanding of the Church," in The Essence of the Church (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), 27-44.

8. Luther's Works, Weimar edition, 3:81 ff., quoted in Douglas John Hall, Thinking the Faith: Christian Theology in a North American Context (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1989), 108.

9. Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, 34.

10. Andre-Jean Festugiere, Personal Religion among the Greeks (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1960), 44.

11. A. H. Armstrong, An Introduction to Ancient Philosophy (London: Methuen, 1947), 115. See also E. R. Dodds, Pagan and Christian in an Age of Anxiety (Cambridge: University Press, 1965).

12. "The Epistle to Menoeceus," cited in Diogenes Laertius, Book X (Cambridge: Harvard, 1965), 131, 125.

13. See Diogenes Laertius, Book VII, 86, 156, 105, 122.

14. Stephen Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989).

15. Festugiere, Personal Religion among the Greeks, 48.

16. N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003), reviewed by Cecile S. Holmes in the Minneapolis Star Tribune (April 19, 2003), 7E.

17. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, xxxx), 662. See also Richard B. Hays, "Victory over Violence: The Significance of N. T. Wright's Jesus for New Testament Ethics," in Jesus and the Restoration of Israel, ed. Carey C. Newman (Downers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity, 1999), 142-58.

18. Josephus, The Jewish War 7.153-62.

19. Luke 7:2-10; 23:47; Acts 10-11; 21:32; 22:25-26; 23:17, 23; 24:23; 27:1, 6, 11, 31, 43.

20. "The Freedom of a Christian," in Martin Luther, ed. John Dillenberger (Garden City: Anchor, 1961), 53.

21. James Nestingen, Centered Life Series (St. Paul: Centered Life, 2003), 14.

22. D. Michael Bennethum, Listen! God is Calling! (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2003).

23. Donald Wisner, "Christian Formation and Vocation," Lutheran Partners 20 (March/April, 2004): 14.

24. Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000).

25. The contributions of several interpreters are notable: Mark R. Schwen, Exiles from Eden (New York: Oxford, 1993); Darrel Jodock, "The Lutheran Tradition and the Liberal Arts College: How Are They Related?" Called to Serve (Northfield: St. Olaf College, 1999), 13-36; Robert Benne, Quality with Soul (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001); and Douglas J. Schuurman, Vocation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004).

26. Herman Stuempfle, "Theological and Biblical Perspectives on the Laity" (Chicago: Division for Ministry, ELCA, 1989), 10.
COPYRIGHT 2006 Lutheran School of Theology and Mission
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:theology studies
Author:Tiede, David L.
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Date:Feb 1, 2006
Words:6174
Previous Article:The conversion of the church.
Next Article:Interpreting the Truth: Changing the Paradigm of Biblical Studies.
Topics:


Related Articles
Faith and reason.
Doing Theology in the City.
Christ crucified: Lutheran missiological themes for a post-christian century.
In search of a non-dogmatic theology.
A black perspective on interdisciplinary work.
Supreme Court theology.
Defensive versus existential religion: is religious defensiveness predictive of worldview defense?
Theology in the curriculum of a secular Religious Studies department.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters