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Posts Tagged ‘Luther’s 7 Marks of the Church’

Acts 20: 28-35

Psalm 71: 1-14

Titus 1: 1-9

St. Luke 10: 1-9

St. Titus, like Timothy with whom he is often  associated, was a friend and co-worker of St, Paul. Titus was a Gentile, perhaps a native of Antioch, who accompanied Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem when they brought assistance to the Christians in Judea during a famine (Acts 11:29-30; Galatians 2:1). It is not known if he accompanied Paul on his first or second missionary journeys, but Titus was with him on the third one, when he helped reconcile the Corinthians to Paul (2 Corinthians 7:6-7) and assisted with the collection for the Church in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:3-6). It was probably on the return to Jerusalem that Paul left Titus in Crete (Titus 1:4-5). Afterward he is found working in Dalmatia (2 Timothy 4:10). According to tradition, Titus returned to Crete, where he served as bishop until he died about AD 96. 

(From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Reflection:  In 1539, Father Martin Luther wrote, On the Councils and Church.   The most noted section in it is the Seven Marks of the Church.  Luther asked a good question, 

The Creed teaches us that a people of God must be on earth and remain until the end of the world. This is an article of faith, which cannot cease until that comes which it believes, as Christ promises, “I am with you even unto the end of the world.” But how can a poor, erring man know where this Christian, holy people in the world is?(emphasis my own)

Luther’s answer to his own question is the 7 marks of the Church. By these 7 marks a “poor, erring man” can publicly see the Church and know where the Church is true to the Word. These are quotes from his treatise:

  1. First , This Christian, holy people is to be known by this, that it has God’s Word,

  2. Second . God’s people, or the Christian holy people, is known by the holy Sacrament of Baptism, when it is rightly taught and believed and used according to Christ’s ordinance.

  3. Third . God’s people, or a Christian, holy Church is known by the holy Sacrament of the Altar, when it is rightly administered according to Christ’s institution and is believed and received

  4. Fourth . The people of God, or holy Christians, are known by the keys, which they publicly use. Christ decrees, in Matthew 18:15 that if a Christian sins, he shall be rebuked, and if he does not amend his ways, he shall be bound and cast out; but if he amends, he shall be set free. This is the power of the keys

  5. Fifth . The Church is known outwardly by the fact that it consecrates or calls ministers, or has offices which they occupy.

  6. Sixth . The holy, Christian people is known by prayer and public thanksgiving and praise to God.

  7. Seventh . The holy, Christian Church is outwardly known by the holy possession of the Holy Cross.

First, why seven?  We do not know from Luther’s writing but a guess is “seven” is a good solid Biblical number pointing us to the 7 days of the week, and the first day of the week, Domingo, the Lord’s Day to hear and eat and drink the Word of the Lord.

Second, note the sequence, Possession of God’s Word, Baptism, Holy Communion, Office of the Keys (public and private confession and absolution).  This is logically followed by someone to do numbers 1-4:  pastors and bishops.  The result is the public praise of God’s people and the possession of the holy cross, that is suffering.  I concentrate today, the Festival of St. Titus, Pastor and Confessor on number 5:  called and ordained Servants of the Word, pastors and bishops.

Third, Christianity is the only religion on earth who calls their ministers Pastors: Pastor literally means “Shepherd”.  For instance, a congregation called “Good Shepherd” is in Spanish, “El Buen Pastor”.  A shepherd leads his flock to “good pastures”, see Psalm 23:2;  St. Mark 6: 39;  St. John 6: 1-14, 33-35.  He calls pastors to feed His flock with the Word preached and taught, baptizing,administering His Body and Blood, and forgiving repentant brothers and sisters, who also are sinners. We need to  eat and drink every day and every week, so we need Him. This was the vocation of Paul and his brother pastors  Timothy and Titus.

The past 3 days are respectively the Festivals of St. Timothy, St. Paul and St. Titus:  all pastors. Luther said a called and ordained Servant of the Word, a pastor,  is a mark of the Church.  

In the TV show M*A*S*H, Fr. Mulcahy was always wondering was he really useful.  The Korean War era helicopters could only take two wounded soldiers at a time, one on each side of the helicopter.  When there was only one wounded, the pilot would use a dummy or a person who volunteered. In one episode, in order to feel useful, Fr. Mulcahy did so.  Colonel Potter was not pleased.  Hawkeye and the other surgeons tried to comfort Fr. Mulcahy that he was indeed useful.  In the  show, one barely sees him saying Mass on Sundays or even talking about it or preaching.  He does hear confessions but usually for the humor in it.  He never evangelizes the Korean villagers. He never baptizes.  It really is a sham portrayal of military chaplains. But many pastors who do all of the above will still feel the need to be “useful”.  As a pastor I think many of us suffer from the  Father Mulcahy Syndrome.  Pastor and something else:  therapist, CEO of church growth, social activist, community organizer and the like.  The pastor can assuage his conscience that he is “useful”.  In terms of this world, yes, I think pastors are useless:  the world of sin, death and the power of the devil of course has no use for Word and Sacraments, for Jesus Christ!  “It’s not practical”  will think our pastor feeling the need to be useful.  I think that conclusion is sheer unbelief and unbelief is  the world and the flesh and devil’s desired outcome. This is a sore temptation to want to feel “useful”.  The thing is that the devil knows the Enemy’s Word is quite practical, for the practice of faith and the fruit of faith, love, His light in the darkness. Numbers 1-4 of Luther’s 7 Marks of the Church is deemed not enough, but it is.  Paul, Titus and Timothy were not looking for adjuncts to heighten their need for usefulness in the Holy Ministry.  Your pastor needs prayer and encouragement to do the one thing needful, the good portion that will not be taken away:  preaching and teaching the Word written, spoken and incarnate (see St.Luke 10:41-42)

Almighty God, You called Titus to the work of pastor and teacher. Make all shepherds of Your flock diligent in preaching Your holy Word so that the whole world may know the immeasurable riches of our Savior, Jesus, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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