October 31, 2012 Blast - If We Would Be Lutheran

 
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If We Would be Lutheran
 
Our nation is in the midst of political campaigning.  We are being told that the choice facing us is between two Americas, two visions for our future. Whatever this country’s electorate decides in November, the Church and her constituency face an even greater decision every day.
 
As Lutherans, we celebrate the Reformation on October 31.  Perhaps that would be a good day – if we are not too distracted with Trick or Treating – to renew our commitment to being truly Lutheran.
 
I thought of this recently when reading Luther’s comments on Matthew 7:13-14. That dear doctor of the Faith wrote: “Think about this, and guide yourself accordingly. If you want to be a Christian, then be one. . . You will never make the way any wider, and you have to watch how few travel on it, while the great mob travels over there. But let this be your comfort: first, that God is standing next to you; and second, that after you have gone through, you will enter a beautiful and wide room. If you just cling to the Word, guiding yourself by it, and not by what your eyes see, He will certainly be next to you. He will be so strong that your spirit will overcome the flesh, the world, and the devil, who will be unable to do anything with your flesh or with the world or with himself. The Word to which you cling by faith is too strong for him, though it seems tiny and we do not see it.”
 
Perhaps we could paraphrase the above by saying, “If you want to be a Lutheran, then be one.” Namely, take daily comfort in your Baptism, but also, take to heart the daily dying to sin and self which that entails, and the daily rising again in the newness of Christ. Take seriously that He accompanies you with His Word and so learn it diligently. Remember that our Lutheran confession is that “in our churches Mass is celebrated every Sunday and on other festivals, when the Sacrament is offered to those who wish for it after they have been examined and absolved” (Apology XXIV, the Mass).
 
Did any of that sound strange? Every Sunday? Other festivals as well? After examination and absolution? The Mass? Does the language of our founding documents sound as strange to our Lutheran ears as our nation’s founding principles can seem to modern and ill-informed citizens today? We can fix that. We must fix that. If we would be Lutheran, then let us be Lutheran!
 
For that, this Reformation is a good time to devote ourselves anew to the study of God’s Word and our Lutheran Confessions. We ought consider current issues and trends facing our church body according to what God says and what we confess according to it. Our ACELC website has documents and studies to help with that. It is even more important that we exercise informed decision making as Lutherans than that we do the same as American citizens in November.
 
The choice we make in November will have lasting effects.  Ever so much more lasting are the effects of our decision not merely to be Lutheran in name or culture or synodical affiliation, but to actually be Lutheran in confession and life.  To depart the historic liturgy in favor of conforming to the patterns of this world will have lasting effects for generations to come.  So will failure to catechize our people properly on what Lutherans actually believe, teach and practice!
 
When we are truly Lutheran, we will repent of our own efforts to broaden the path we are on, hoping more will join us. We will repent of worrying that so many prefer the wide and easy road. It has always been this way. We will stop trying to look more like the world and remember that we look like Christ by virtue of our Baptism. While the world still despises Him, He would have all come under His gracious embrace.
 
So, we catechize diligently, sure that to do so is to evangelize the next generation. We hold fast to what we have received, eagerly offering it as the prize it is, neither surprised when it is rejected nor forlorn to see how many want to change it. We cling to the Word, judging by what He says, not by what we see. We remain sure that the devil is defeated, regardless of how things look, and that “the Word to which you cling by faith is too strong for him, though it seems tiny and we do not see it.”
 
November lays before us an important decision, but even more is the one which is set before us by our annual celebration of Reformation Day; namely, if we would be Lutheran, then let us truly be Lutheran!
 
Pastor Rick Sawyer
Vice-chairman, ACELC Board of Directors
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