Rev. Mark Buetow
Martin Luther the monk. October 31. 95 Theses. The Diet of Worms. “I will not recant; Here I stand, so help me God.” Knight George. Popes. Councils. Excommunication. A staged kidnapping. Throwing an inkwell at the devil. Threats of being burned at the stake. A scholar and Bible translator. Wittenburg. Saxony. Augsburg. If you are familiar with the story of Martin Luther and the Reformation, you will recognize many of these images in the life of Martin Luther and the “Lutheran” Reformers. But even if you aren’t aware of all this history, that doesn’t matter. As exciting as these things are and as a great a story as they tell, the Reformation and being “Lutheran” isn’t about any of that. The irony of the Reformation and “daring to be Lutheran” is that it’s only about one thing. One person. Not Martin Luther. And not you.
It’s about Jesus Christ.
More specifically, it is about Jesus Christ who is true God, begotten of the Father, and true man, born of the virgin Mary who died for your sins on the cross of Calvary on Good Friday and rose from the dead on Easter. That’s what Martin Luther, the Reformation and anything genuinely “Lutheran” is all about.
The Reformation and being “Lutheran” is about Jesus Christ who gives to you the forgiveness He won for you on the cross in the waters of Holy Baptism, the Words of Holy Absolution, the preaching and teaching of the Holy Gospel and His body and blood in His Holy Supper. There is an unbreakable connection between what Jesus did for you and how He gives it to you and makes it yours by His Word, water, body and blood as the Holy Spirit calls you to faith and keeps you in that faith as He keeps you in His church.
Lutherans boast in those Reformation “solas” that confess we are saved by GRACE ALONE, apart from our good works or earning or deserving anything from God. This is through FAITH ALONE which is not some choice or decision but the gift of the Spirit by which we trust in Christ and His promises. This is revealed to us in the SCRIPTURES ALONE which are God’s Holy Word and teach and give us everything we need of Jesus to believe that He is the Christ and to have life in His Name. All of this is to boast and confess in CHRIST ALONE who has accomplished our salvation, delivers our salvation, conquered our enemies, seats us with Him in the heavenly places and will come again and raise us from the dead on the Last Day.
Lutherans rejoice to confess that they are “Christians” in a world full of religions of works, self-improvement, self-worship, and vague spiritualities. Lutherans rejoice to be called “Christians” in a world that hates Christ, doesn’t believe in God and would even persecute and harm them. But Lutherans also rejoice to confess that they are “Lutherans” when this helps distinguish them from other Christian churches which may have taken a wrong turn in their teaching. For example: to be “Lutheran” is to confess the gift that Jesus gives even to babies in the waters of baptism. To say we’re Lutheran reminds others that is what we teach in contrast to churches which don’t believe what Jesus says about Holy Baptism.
To be “Lutheran” is to humbly confess Christ and His gifts to others who may not be sure, who may be in doubt, and who are troubled by their sins. But it also means to boast mightily in Christ and His gifts against those who willfully twist God’s Word or teach falsely when they ought to know better.
Do you get it? The Lutheran Reformation and being “Lutheran” is about one thing and that’s NOT Martin Luther. It’s about just One Person. Jesus Christ. Savior. Lord. Prophet. Priest. King. Word. Lamb. The One who is about nothing other than taking away the sin of the world and delivering His forgiveness by His holy gifts. Our Lutheran heritage is a gift not because it gives us some exclusive tie-in to some great events in the history of the Western world. It’s a gift because it brings Christ to us and calls us to Him in repentance and faith. And that’s a gift not just from history but on into eternity. Happy Reformation from Higher Things!
Rev. Mark Buetow is pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church in Du Quoin, IL. He is also the Media Executive for Higher Things.