Monday, October 10, 2011

What is Being Lutheran All About?

While the name "Lutheran" doesn't appear until the time of the Reformation (1530 AD), we trace our roots past the Reformation, back to the first century church of the Apostles, back to the time when God made His covenant with Abraham, back to Adam and Eve themselves.

The Reformation was a time of the rediscovery of "Salvation through God's grace." Martin Luther was a monk and professor at Wittenberg University in Germany. The teachers and pastors at this time taught that your salvation depended on the works you did on Earth. After reading the Bible, Luther discovered "salvation through faith alone." While this brought him great joy, this discovery went against the prevailing teaching.

At the Diet of Worms, the high council of the Empire, Martin Luther stood before the emporor himself. He was commanded by the emperor to recant his writings, or face excommunication and death. Cowed by the power of the emperor, Luther asks for time to think about recanting. He is given one day.

That evening Luther endures a terrible internal struggle trying to decide how to answer the emperor's demands. The next day, the internal battle is over. Before the emperor's council a resolute Luther bravely stands before the emperor. When he is asked to recant or face excommunication and death at the stake, Luther stands and says "Unless the error of my writings can be shown in Scripture... Here I stand, I can do no other!"

Though his decision meant certain death, he stood by his work. He believed that to recant his work was to recant the Bible from which his writings were based. That was the big thing about the Reformation. The re-discovery of the Bible! Everyone knew about the danger of sin and the threat of Hell. But the Reformation stood for the re-discovery about how the death of Christ on the cross paid for all of our sins--the re-discovery of how we were freed from the burden of trying to earn our salvation--the re-discovery of the offer of "salvation through faith alone".

Today there are about 63 million Lutherans worldwide. In the United States, we belong to The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, founded by a group of German immigrants who settled in Perry County, Missouri in 1847. Over the next two centuries the little congregation would grow into an international denomination ministering to the needs of people from all nations. The international headquarters of the synod is located in St. Louis.

Every year, around November 1, we remember the Reformation, the birth of the Lutheran church, and the re-discovery of "salvation by faith alone".