The Church is one, everywhere and always one. That brings up the question: In what is the Church one? If we answer, that she is one in the truth, then nobody will disagree, just as they will all agree that this truth is God’s word and finally also that it is this truth, which unifies and makes one Church out of all believers from all ages and lands: God’s word spoken and written down by the apostles and prophets of old. The King of all truth – Jesu Christ – himself said to the apostles: “For whoever hears you, hears me!” This apostolic word has been the unifying factor of the Church all along and it will continue to be this until the end of time. The Church was not unified around certain persons or people, not this or that constitution or regulation, but only through the apostolic truth. This united Jews and gentiles. It was able to unify the most diverse people, cultures and traditions into the one holy Christian Church here on earth. As long as the apostles were alive, their spoken word was authoritative. After their death it became more and more their written testimonies – the New Testament. That is like a living fountain and source of the truth. Around this the Church gathered and to this centre it called and invited everybody else too. Everything the Church owns, has and does derives from this apostolic foundation. That is why it calls itself “apostolic” even to this day. This means that it is based and grounded and organized and regulated by the true teaching of the apostles. Amen.
O Lord Jesus Christ, as the world grows old and the final evening draws near, grant to your Church and living congregation the faithful confession of your true Word. Awaken in her the courage and boldness to stand by the truth, but also the seriousness of loyalty and devotion against defection and ridicule, against doubt, deception, heresy, idolatry and other evils. Grant a joyful love towards you and your holy Church. Let us finally be gathered with all saints around your throne and thank you eternally. Amen. (Wilhelm Löhe)
1 The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord. She is his new creation by water and the word. From heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride. With his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died.
2 Elect from every nation, yet one o’er all the earth, her charter of salvation: one Lord, one faith, one birth. One holy name she blesses, partakes one holy food, and to one hope she presses, with every grace endued.
3 Though with a scornful wonder this world sees her oppressed, by schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed, yet saints their watch are keeping; their cry goes up: “How long?” And soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song.
4 Mid toil and tribulation, and tumult of her war, she waits the consummation of peace forevermore: till with the vision glorious her longing eyes are blest, and the great church victorious shall be the church at rest.
5 Yet she on earth has union with God, the Three in One, and mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won: O happy ones and holy! Lord, give us grace that we, like them, the meek and lowly, may live eternally. (S.J. Stone 1866)
This is a rather free translation of Wilhelm Löhe’s devotion for the 8th January during the high holiday of Epiphany. It is found on Pg. 49 in Lob sei Dir ewig, o Jesu! (Eternal Praise to you o Jesus!) edited by A. Schuster and published in the Freimund Verlag, Neuendettelsau 1949.