Being Lutheran matters because the Gospel matters. If there is any reason at all for Lutheranism to exist, it is to preach and teach the Gospel of Jesus crucified, who atoned for our sins and the sins of the whole world with His own righteous life, life-giving death, and death overcoming resurrection. The Gospel is not whether or not God likes you, whether or not you like God, whether or not you are spiritual, whether or not you are happy, or whether or not you think you are good. The Gospel is the incarnate Lord by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary who for us and for our salvation was crucified, died, and was buried, and who was raised again on the third day. This is the message of Moses, the Prophets, and the Writings. This is the story of Scripture. If the Gospel no longer matters, then it is true that being Lutheran no longer matters.
Being Lutheran matters because the Church matters. Lutheranism is a churchly movement unlike those Protestant and Evangelical movements which are centered in the individual. The Church matters because the Church is the creation of Jesus Christ, His body and His bride, wherein He delivers to those for whom He died the fruits of His once for all sacrifice, cleansing us from our sins and bestowing upon us everlasting life. The Church matters because our piety is planted not in our feelings or our thoughts or our desires or our accomplishments (works) but in Christ alone and Christ is not theory or idea but flesh and blood. He comes to us through the efficacious Word that delivers its promise and the Sacraments that bestow what they sign. If the Church no longer matters, then it is true that being Lutheran no longer matters.
Being Lutheran matters because worship matters. Lutheranism preserves the catholic and apostolic form of the mass and centers that Divine Service where Christ intends it to be -- in Himself. If Biblical, catholic, and apostolic worship can be entertainment or enlightenment of the mind or ethereal experience of something we deem spiritual, then it is true, being Lutheran no longer matters. For Lutheranism, if it is anything, is the practice of a confession, the face of whom we meet in the Divine Service.
Being Lutheran matters because piety matters. Lutheranism in piety, hymnody, and devotion turns us to the cross, to the Scriptures, and to the means of grace. Piety is not an exercise of self-improvement or the whim of the moment or the trend of the day. Piety is not inspiration to do better or be better. Piety meets Christ where Christ has promised to be -- the Word and the Sacraments. We pray what God has said because this is the most certain pray we can pray. We pray the creed as a people whose piety is rooted and planted in God's revelation of Himself. We pray the liturgy because even when we are outside the Divine Service, we are focused upon Christ and His coming to us through the means of grace.
Being Lutheran matters because sin and death matters. Death is not normal but the curse of Eden to a rebellious people and all their offspring. Sin is the reason death exists. When sin no longer exists and we are free to indulge the desires of our hearts without the voice of conscience or the Word of God to challenge, then perhaps Lutheranism will seem irrelevant. When we have made our peace with death and let technology and self-interest define what life is, when it begins, whether it is worthy, and when it shall end, then perhaps Lutheranism will seem irrelevant. But as long as a guilty conscience cries out for relief and grief appeals for comfort before the grave, Lutheranism has a purpose and a cause. If sin and death no longer matter, then it is true, being Lutheran no longer matters.
On this day when we remind ourselves and the world around us that we are Lutheran, we would do well to remember
- that our glory is not in a man for whom we are named but the eternal Gospel,
- that the Church is not irrelevant, optional, or non-essential to this Gospel and its proclamation,
- that worship is the Divine service to us before we can serve the Lord in any way shape or form,
- that piety is not our self-expression but Christ living in us and through us,
- that sin and death imposed themselves upon us by our own free choice until Christ came to release us from their everlasting bondage and captivity.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. [Amen.]
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord [Amen.]
“To this temple, where we call You,
Come, O Lord of hosts, and stay;
Come with all Your loving kindness,
Hear Your people as they pray;
And Your fullest benediction
Shed within these walls today.”
(Lutheran Service Book, © 2006 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO. 909:2)
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