Pastor’s Reflection

In this month of the commemoration of the Lutheran Reformation, I have several comments below. The first are about the theology of Martin Luther that changed the church and guides us today.
 
1. I was recently asked by “Living Lutheran” magazine of the ELCA for comments from Luther’s theology that guide me in pastoral ministry. They may not appear in the magazine, so I offer them here:
 
“A Christian is lord of all, completely free of everything. A Christian is a servant, completely attentive to the needs of all.” (Or, said differently) “A Christian has no need of any law in order to be saved, since through faith we are free from every law. Thus all the acts of a Christian are done spontaneously, out of a sense of pure liberty.”
 
“This is the mystery which is rich in divine grace to sinners: wherein by a wonderful exchange our sins are no longer ours but Christ’s and the righteousness of Christ is not Christ’s but ours. He has emptied Himself of his righteousness that He might clothe us with it and fill us with it; and He has taken our evils upon Himself that He might deliver us from them.”
 
Luther believed that that “indulgence chest” which collected money in exchange for years in purgatory for the church’s use, especially building the cathedral in Rome, should be replaced by a “community chest,” keeping freely given money in the community to help people.
 
On the Eucharist: The words “given for you” and “shed for you for the forgiveness of sin” show us that forgiveness of sin, life, and salvation are given to us in the sacrament through these words, because where there is forgiveness of sin, there is also life and salvation.
 
On Baptism: Clearly the water does not do it, but the word of God, which is with and alongside the water, and faith, which trusts this word of God in the water. For without the word of God, the water is plain water not a baptism, but with the word of God, it is a baptism, that is, grace-filled water of life and a “bath of the new birth in the Holy Spirit.”
 
In her speech to the 2016 ELCA Grace Gathering, Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee suggested that Luther’s anger about the corrupt state of affairs in the church of his day started with his visit to Rome in 1510, perhaps the start of the Reformation. The phrase, “The just shall live by faith,” became meaningful to him there. What in the communities of our congregations elicits “righteous anger” leading to correction?
 
2. The engineer in me likes to summarize Luther’s theology with directional arrows. That is, it all begins with the directional arrow coming down from God. In his early life, Luther believed with the church around him that so much of his life was about offering up to God and pleasing God so that he might be forgiven and accepted. His energy was spent doing things (arrow up) that he thought might please God.
 
When he realized that God’s love came down to him, then he began to see that God intends for the love created in us to go to the neighbor next to us. So the response arrow goes to the side. God is pleased when we love the neighbor, so while we are loving the neighbor, the arrow is actually going up as well. So the flow chart of God’s love would be down, then sideways, and up. It is a grace-filled way to live.
 
3. Many were able to see the movie on PBS, “Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World.” It is a new movie, and I thought it captured both the key times in his life and the changes that were brought about which shaped not only the theology from then on, but also cultural and economic life. You can still see the movie online at: http://www.pbs.org/video/martin-luther-the-idea-that-changedthe-world-iyaelb/ I recommend it.
 
4. Another online movie about Martin Luther, is Martin Luther the Man. It is about an hour long if seen all at once, or it is divided into ten minutes sections. It is a movie of lively discussion by Lutheran Luther scholars, several from St. Louis, who capture Luther’s life and meaning very well. It is produced by Lutheran Hour Ministries. The dialog is lively and goes from speaker to speaker quite frequently. It is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAbjgTHSkJI or go to YouTube and search for “Martin Luther The Man.”
 
Luther is someone who changed the world by his gospel-centered theology and the new and recovered views of God and people shown in the New Testament. We celebrate that core belief this month as we endeavor to interpret its meaning for our time.
 
Semper Reformanda! — Pr. Keith