During our last Clergy Cluster meeting in London, Pastor Thomas Mertz suggested that each clergy member in the Conference submit a reflectionon ' what does it mean for me to be a Lutheran in this Country/Community?'
“Ecclesia reformanda, sed semper reformata.” “The Church reformed, but always in the process of being reformed.” That’s what the festival of reformation shouts out to me. At it’s heart, it’s a celebration of the Gospel! It’s a celebration of the power of that Gospel to breathe new life into us. It's a reminder that the Holy Spirit knows no bounds. It’s a celebration of the continuing reformation that the Holy Spirit is effecting, both within the world and within the life of church. May God grant us the desire and the will to stretch and grow within the light of this wonderful and always new truth, for our sake and for the sake of the world.
Reformation Sunday draws closer and in churches around the country and in fact the world millions of Lutherans celebrate their rich denominational heritage. Pastors may invite for talks on Lutheran theology. The Luther Rose pops up on every Sunday bulletin and may even be good for a sermon.
“A Mighty Fortress,” the old beloved hymn sounds from coast to coast and of course as every year on Reformation Sunday Romans 3, 19-28 will remind us that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. And if we listen real carefully that day, we may even still hear the pounding of Martin Luther’s hammer, nailing the 95 thesis to the door of the Wittenberg church; the stuff that gives every Lutheran goose bumps.
My dad was catholic. The black sheep of the family. My Mom and Grandma raised me Lutheran. As a youth I was active in my local church and later I went to seminary, because I wanted to pass my Lutheran heritage on to others. It’s easy where I come from, because in Bavaria people pretty much belong to either the Catholic or to the “real” Church. But since my family and I moved to Canada I realize being Lutheran is much more of a choice. We could also be Presbyterian, United, Baptist, Pentacostal or Anglican. What does it mean for us, who choose to live as Lutherans in our communities to be a Lutheran.
For me personally the answer to that question goes back to my childhood. My father worked for a newspaper company and was frequently transferred to new offices in different cities. During the first 13 years of my life I moved 6 times. It’s hard to describe what that meant for me. But through all the changes of those years the church stood like a rock for me to lean on. Or I should rather say church became the one familiar place, where inevitably people would welcome us strangers in their midst and treat us like family. We didn’t have to earn our way into the community, but were received simply with grace, witnessing faithfully to the infinitely greater grace of the Lord. When I heard the pastor preach grace on Sunday I had already experienced it through the compassion of the people in church.
It’s the amazing grace of God that we Lutherans stand for in the world and in our local communities. Grace that receives all in the presence of loving God and is lived out in the way we preach and communicate with those in our neighbourhoods. It’s so much easier to preach the law to them and to ourselves, but we preach grace alone. Grace can always be mistaken. Jesus paid the price for that misunderstanding. But God raised him from the dead, so the truth of grace as the way to life might be affirmed. I believe as Lutherans we have a special call to embody God’s grace. And for me that’s behind the motto of our ELCIC to be a church “In Mission for Others”: To live – in word and deed – the grace that has saved us and frees us each new day.
Pastor Thomas Mertz
This is not an easy question to answer, but I'd have to say that being Lutheran today, here and now, is a matter of being free. I was raised in a different church tradition than the Lutheran tradition. What I have found in the Lutheran tradition is freedom. I know God's grace in Jesus Christ and I can celebrate it. Salvation is out of my hands and I need not save myself, so I am free from that fear and oppression. I can live the life of a Christian, knowing that I am forgiven and that sin -although still present- does not form an obstacle to grace or to growth in grace. I am free to live in gratitude rather than in fear or guilt.(That doesn't mean I always do, but I am free to live that way.) I am free to hear the Word of God addressed to me and to receive the sacraments as the Word made Flesh for me. At it's best, it is like a breath of clean, fresh air after a time in a stuffy, dark place. I am also free to carry on the tradition of what is best in the entire Christian Church throughout all the ages.
As a Lutheran Christian, I don't “have to”; I “get to!”
Pastor John Goldsworthy
As Christians, we struggle daily to live in balance of law and gospel. Law does not justify, and yes, there is still a need for the law. We cannot take the law and toss it on the scrap heap. For it is the law that drives us to the gospel, and it is the law that reminds us that we need the gospel, which promises the forgiveness of sins for the sake of Christ by grace through faith. We cannot keep the law without faith. And on the flip side, we cannot live with only the gospel either. We need to live daily with a balance so that the full reality of God’s grace can be experienced. What a wonderful feeling it would be to accept ourselves as a human beings, and to accept others as human beings, and to live as God intended us to live. Not by our own means, but by the means of our loving and gracious God - that only which God can fulfill. And a wonderful discovery you can make is that as you experience and accept God’s grace unconditionally, you are much better at accepting yourself and others unconditionally.
Pastor Rick Brown
Reflecting on what it means to be a Lutheran on Reformation Day means many things to me but perhaps the most important is the reminder that we should constantly be reforming’ the church. This means evaluating how we respond to the issues of the day. For Luther it was posting 95 Thesis’ on the door of the Wittenburg church because of the abuse he was encountering.
Today the abuse may take the form of ‘human trafficking’; ‘refugee rights’; ‘truth and reconciliation’. We as a church should always be ‘reforming’ as we grapple with the issues of a world we find ourselves in – just as Luther did.
Reforming does not only mean drafting motions or even writing to the Prime Minister to express concern over social justice issues. The church is here to act on behalf of the ‘widow’ and the ‘orphan’ and to act in a way that liberates and cares for those who do not have a voice. It is the part of ‘being’ in mission that suggests involvement and engagement. It’s struggling with what it means to take action – meaningful action - in a world that needs our attention and our hearts. We have “work to share and reproach to dare”1 as we continue to identify ourselves as Lutherans who are called to be Christ to the world!
1 Samuel Wolcott, 1813-1886
In the hymn For By Grace You Have Been Saved (ELW 598), the hymn writer declares, “So my grace is all-sufficient for each child who is my own, for my strength is now made perfect for each child who is my own…” This is a song of thanksgiving and celebration, but also a testimony of our Lutheran identity. God, who gives so abundantly and so freely, has bestowed revelations about his love, forgiveness, and greatness to the faithful, including churches and denominations. For us Lutherans, through Martin Luther, God has trusted this awesome truth about God’s grace that is all-sufficient – nothing more is needed. We are the stewards of this revelation and it is our calling to proclaim it ceaselessly and to share it with all others. What an awesome privilege! We are called to share this God’s great gift with others, Christians and non-Christians alike, as it is the wellspring of joy, love and life that frees us to live our lives to its fullest with God and with one another. Thanks be to God!
Pastor Elina Salonen,
Faith Church, Fergus-Elora
Reformation is celebratory when we live it as a description of ourselves following Jesus, individually and collectively, as the body of Christ. It is not the mission of the Church, but without it there is no mission. That we know too as Lutherans. When Jesus announced the kingdom as near, I take it to mean that love has won. Now, anyone who’s ever toyed with love knows that it is both immediate and still out of our reach. We can’t pull it in and make it our own. As I see it, that’s a very good thing because the kingdom belongs to everyone. And so, we keep reaching for it. What I’ve seen is that love like that of Jesus is found in individuals and congregations, who know they’re in process and strain forward as Paul urged. Being unfinished isn’t so bad. It means there’s room for love and love’s forgiveness. Living Lutheran is being open to living really large-grace filling each day. Moses never walked into the promised land, but faith carried him, as it will us, there.
Pastor Ed Bastian