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Why I love being a Lutheran

I love being a Lutheran. I’m an unabashed advocate and defender of the Lutheran church, not (in the words of theologian Herman Sasse) because it is the church of Martin Luther, but because it is the church of Jesus Christ.

So as we commemorate the Reformation today, let me suggest seven reasons why I love being a Lutheran.

1) We put Jesus front and center.

No church worthy of the name would say that it puts Jesus “back and to the side.” And yet, in practice, many do. If churches had slogans, the Lutheran church’s may well be “Christ-centered, cross-focused.” Jesus is at the heart of who we are and what we do. The gospel for us isn’t just an appetizer; it’s the hors-d’oeuvre, main dish, and dessert. More than anything else, this is why I am a Lutheran: because of Jesus.

I’m an unabashed advocate of the Lutheran church, not because it is the church of Martin Luther, but because it is the church of Jesus Christ.

2) We don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Many people in Luther’s day believed that he didn’t go far enough; many still do. Why retain the liturgy? Why still celebrate the sacraments? Why keep stained glass? Weren’t (and aren’t) these things too, well, Catholic?

Luther’s response would be, as the Scripture says, “Test everything; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5.21). Lutherans don’t pretend like nothing good happened in church history between the time of the apostles and the time of the Reformation. We are ancient and modern; evangelical and catholic; sacramental and biblical. Which reminds me…
3) We relish paradox. 

Scripture is replete with paradoxes—shoot, life is. The temptation is to loosen the tension and let logic have the last word rather than God. Free will or predestination? Human responsibility or divine grace? Saint or sinner? The Lutheran answer is, Yes! We speak where Scripture speaks and are silent where Scripture is silent. It’s not our job to reconcile things the Bible says that we don’t understand (it’d be surprising, in fact, if everything in Holy Writ made perfect sense to finite, fallible human brains). We’re called simply to confess what we have received from God, and let Him sort out how it all fits together. He’s cool with that.
4) We embrace Christian freedom.

“For freedom Christ has set you free,” Paul says in Galatians. “Therefore do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5.1).  At our best, Lutherans toe the fine line between legalism and licentiousness; we embrace the freedom of the gospel. Some accuse us of enjoying that freedom too much, and there may be a little truth to that—though, as C.S. Lewis said, “The good man is sorry for the sins which have increased his need. He is not entirely sorry for the fresh need they have produced” (The Four Loves).
5) We put Jesus front and center.

Did I say that already? Well, it bears repeating.

These are just a few of the reasons why I love being a Lutheran, and while there are certainly many more I also could have stopped with the first one. For as our Lord himself said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15.11). To be fully joyful, and joyfully Lutheran, is simply and solely to be His. 

This article is adapted from my essay in the August 2019 Lutheran Witness

Sunday's sermon

Not everyone celebrates on Reformation Day. In fact, some have even argued that our red should be swapped out for purple. Are they right? Is Reformation Day something to be celebrated, or to be mourned?

Listen to Sunday's sermon

News & Notes

  • I'm very grateful for Chelsea Chapin helping to spearhead the start of a nursery ministry here at TLC. Starting this Sunday, families with little ones (under the age of 3) can have their tyke join a caring volunteer from church for a time of "godly play" during the sermon. This will be a blessing to our current families, and an outreach to new ones as well. If you'd like to volunteer, contact Chelsea
  • This weekend the family and I are traveling to St. Louis to visit our good friends the Zeiglers. Pastor Beiderwieden will be leading worship here at Trinity in my absence. Please pray for our safe travels, and a fun few days as a family. I'll be back on Monday evening. 
  • I had a couple of opportunities this week to chat with folks on a pair of radio shows on KFUO, the radio station of the LCMS. The first one, Sharper Iron, was a Bible study on Amos 3.9-15 (listen here). The second was on the show Coffee Hour, in which we discussed All Saints day (listen here). Check it out! 

From the Church Year

Today in the Church Year is Reformation Day. From the Treasury of Daily Prayer:

"Martin Luther, Augustinian monk, pastor and professor at the University of Wittenberg found many problems with the Roman Catholic Church’s complex system of indulgences and good works. On October 31, 1517, Luther posted 95 Theses on the door of his church, All Saints’ Church, also known as “Castle Church”.

In the 95 Theses, Luther attacked the indulgence system, insisting that the Pope had no authority over purgatory and that the doctrine of the merits of the saints had no foundation in the Gospel.

Luther’s teaching for the moral and theological reform of the church can be summarized as: Scripture alone is authoritative (sola sciptura) and justification is by faith (sola fide) not by works and grace alone (sola gratia) is the free gift of God’s grace (undeserved mercy) for Christ’s sake alone, not as something merited by the sinner.

The 95 Theses were quickly translated from Latin into German, printed and widely copied with the recent invention of the printing press. Within two weeks, copies of the Theses had spread throughout Germany; within two months throughout Europe.

Luther published a short commentary on Galatians and his work on the Psalms. Many of his important works were written within a few years following the posting of the 95 Theses. Three of his best-known works were published in 1520: To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church and On the Freedom of a Christian.

While Luther did not intend to break with the Roman Catholic Church, a confrontation with the Papacy was not long in coming. In 1521 Luther was excommunicated. What began as a reform of the Roman Catholic Church, led to the beginning of the Lutheran Church."

"I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything.”

- Martin Luther

Looking ahead to Sunday

All Saints Day (Observed)
  • Readings
    • First lesson—Revelation 7.9-17
    • Epistle lesson—1 John 3.1-3
    • Gospel—Matthew 5.1-11
  • Hymn of the Day—"Sing With All the Saints in Glory" (LSB 671)

+ Grace & Peace +

Pastor Tinetti

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