Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.
In a world with so many differences in understanding, what is the right answer? What is the best laundry detergent? Which car is the best value based on overall cost? Whose politics truly represent the people who voted them into office? Which religion has “it right?”
I have a close friend who spent significant time studying which Christian denomination was truest. What did they teach on sacraments? Who has an ancient history best reflecting the early church? What do they teach? These are not inconsequential issues, but most people candidly don’t want to make that kind of effort. In my case, I am Lutheran by birth. I have a history where my grandparents remember persecution for being Lutheran. There was a sense that their faith was formed in the caldron of suffering. No, there was no “burning at the stake” persecution, but they were firmly Lutheran when other choices were easier. Why should we be Lutheran?
As we prepare for the 500 anniversary of the Reformation, it would be easy to pat ourselves on the back and forget Luther was about preserving the church. Luther was equally about changing society because people needed to understand their faith. Luther was not just a reformer, he was a revolutionary. We are lucky to live in an age where Lutherans have been an agency for church unity. Conversations with the Catholic church have shown steady progress; a common service was held in Stockholm in 2016 with the Lutheran World Federation. The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification was signed in 1999 between Catholics and Lutherans. I could say more, but we are doing the right thing by pursuing the commonality we have by being the body of Christ in the world. We are in common communion with the Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ, the Reformed Church in America, The Episcopalian Church, the Moravian Church, and the United Methodist Church.
It is tough when we have all been taught to think the other denominations don’t get it. They don’t understand the Bible nor the centrality of faith. What we need to remember is our common baptism in Christ and the grace received through communion. We remain true to our Lutheran heritage as we also confess a powerful God that works through our flawed humanity…our sin. Yep, sin compels a humility to show a love that reflects the unbounded grace given to us. We understand (as best we can) this God whose power and majesty and righteousness is beyond us. Can we honor others because love allows this and IT IS a reflection of a God who will sort all this out far better than we have done or are likely able to do? We can remain truly Lutheran by a love that is our justification by faith.
If we want to honor our heritage; study the scripture, invite others to share our fellowship, and participate in the means of grace, live your baptism. Be the agent of love. Be the person who changes by being changed. Only grace, only faith, only scripture…very Lutheran…very Christian. We have peace this way.
Only Through Christ…Pastor Joe