The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Communal repentance

Dying, rising with Christ no heroic individual quest

My father was raised in a small town in South Dakota where the railroad tracks came to an end. A whistle blew when a train arrived and men came to the railroad yard to unhook the engine from the cars and move it onto a large round platform. They inserted long poles into the platform and worked together to turn the engine so it could travel in the right direction. I think often of their communal act of turning and have pondered what we might learn from it.

What does it mean to be a church whose life is a repentant dying and rising with Jesus Christ? What does it mean in the wider public life of our nation?

The Lutheran tradition originated with a call to repentance. The 95 Theses, which Martin Luther composed nearly 500 years ago, begin: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said ‘Repent’ (Matthew 4:17) he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” I am convinced this repentance must be a lived reality in the entirety of our relationships with others. To be so, it must include our communal relationships in public life as well as those in private life.

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March issue

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