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VIDEO: What's So Special About Being Lutheran?

A few days ago I stumbled upon Rev. Matthew C. Harrison's open letter "Reflections Of A Synod President" and was grateful that he took the time to comment on the good, the bad, and the ugly in the LCMS right now.

There will always be people who will say that he "didn't go far enough" and that he should've been more firm and focused in his reply. That was my knee-jerk reaction actually. Still, it can't be easy serving in his role and I liked the candor.

"No pastor can please everyone. I approach all issues pastorally. I am to the core of my being a pastor. I try not to act rashly. I almost never act without some significant forethought and counsel. When I have or do, I make mistakes. When I make mistakes, I own them and apologize for them. Mistakes in this life are inevitable. I am not Jesus."

This is why we must pray for our Pastors regularly.

Like us, they're both saints and sinners who struggle daily with temptations to sin too.

You didn't have to read between the lines though. Pastor Harrison did comment on the major challenges facing the LCMS today and even if he didn't go on-and-on about them at any length (or the kind of length that would satisfy some), what he did have to say was very encouraging to this layman, especially when you keep in mind his other recent comments about fidelity to one's calling and fidelity to one's confession of the faith.

Here are a few of the things he wrote that were encouraging to me...

"To act pastorally means that change takes time and teaching. ... The Synod will continue to struggle with issues of doctrine and practice. Given the tumultuous events of the 1960s and 70s, it’s frankly amazing we are as united as we are. And things will become calmer still as 1974 fades into the past. I believe a consensus is emerging on issues of worship (though challenges remain to be sure). The penetration of LSB in nearly 90% of our congregations is a great sign. There is a consensus emerging, too, that while specific musical instrumentation is not commanded or forbidden, and a range of music may be acceptable (with appropriate Christological, sacramental provisos), the ordo (order) of the divine service should not be messed with. Confession and Absolution should not be ditched. The Creed should not be altered. The Lord’s Words of Institution are his, not ours to do with as we please. And we must have improved and improving preaching (more on that soon). If one speaks to a number of men involved in local Koinonia Project discussions, one will find that some amazing and stuff is quietly going on. We are at the tip of a new culture where we humbly discuss our differences, seeking truth in Christ and his Word. God help us. We have a long way to go. ... Two years ago I requested of the CTCR a document to assist congregations in evaluating and improving their communion statements. We will release that very soon. We all recognize that there is 'pastoral discretion' in communion practice—that is, discretion in communing individuals from time to time who, for a variety of reasons, may not be official members of an LCMS congregation or that of one of our partner churches. However, explaining our Lutheran teaching in a bulletin statement and then inviting all who believe this to commune without respect to church affiliation is not consistent with the stated and re-stated position of the Synod. I invite you to read, for instance, Dr. Walther’s, The Church and the Office of the Ministry, especially Thesis VIII on the Church. This is the official doctrinal statement of the Synod. I have been encouraging District Presidents and pastors/congregations to make sure their communion statements at the least require a person to speak with a pastor or elder prior to communing. ... We must revise our system of ecclesiastical supervision and adjudication. A church that holds to the inerrant scriptures and a quia subscription to the Book of Concord, cannot have public teachers for decade after decade openly rejecting the church’s teachings and or acting against them. There are church bodies where women are pastors, the Bible is not regarded as infallible, sexual preferences are optional, etc. etc. But this is not the LCMS, and to the extent I have anything to say about it, won’t be the LCMS. We must come to reasonable resolution of the issue of licensed lay deacons that has caused so very much dissention among us. Larry Vogel of the CTCR and a small task force have been working very hard on this issue, and there is light breaking at the end of the tunnel."

Like I said, this kind of public statement is very encouraging to me. I pray that this is is more than just mere lip service this time around. Only time will tell.

Reading all of that has a way of prompting a person to ask: What's so special about being Lutheran? Seriously. What is it? Because clearly there are some who embrace being a Lutheran and want to share the Lutheran faith with as many people as they can since they know it is the clearest, most faithful confession of Law and Gospel there is, but then there are others who reject anything even remotely resembling or sounding Lutheran.

What in the world is going on here and what's the big deal anyway? Well, before we take a look at a 36-minute video I found that will provide us with the answers to those questions, let's first start off by reminding ourselves of some things the Lutheran Church was built on.

I see that schisms and errors are increasing proportionately with the passage of time, and that there is no end to the rage and fury of Satan. Hence lest any persons during my lifetime or after my death appeal to me or misuse my writings to confirm their error, as the Sacramentarians and Anabaptists fanatics are already beginning to do, I desire with this treatise to confess my faith before God and all the world point by point. I am determined to abide it until my death and (so help me God!) in this faith to depart from this world and to appear before the judgment seat of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hence if anyone shall say after my death, "If Luther were living now, he would teach and hold this or that article differently, for he did not consider it sufficiently," etc., let me say once and for all that by the grace of God I have most diligently traced all these articles through the Scriptures, have examined them again and again in the light thereof, and have wanted to defend all of them as certainly as I have now defended the Sacrament of the Altar. I am not drunk or irresponsible. I know what I am saying, and I well realize what this will mean for me before the last judgment at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let no one make this out to be a joke or idle talk; I am in dead earnest, since by the grace of God I have learned to know a great deal about Satan. If he can twist and pervert the Word of God and the Scriptures, what will he not be able to do with my or someone else's words. 
*- FC, SD, VII, 29-31. See also FC, SD, XII, 40.


It is written that when they rebuilt Jerusalem, they built with one hand and had a sword in the other hand because of the enemies who wanted to hinder the building (Nehemiah 4 [:16-18]). St. Paul explains that a bishop, pastor, or preacher should be a master of teaching and warning from the Holy Scriptures, and also of restraining those who contradict it (Titus 1 [:9]). Accordingly, we are to use the Word of God in two ways: as both bread and sword, for feeding and for fighting, in times of peace and in times of war. With one hand we build, improve, teach, and feed Christendom, and with the other we oppose the devil, the heretics, and the world. Wherever there is no defense, there the devil ruins the pasture, of which he is the enemy. Therefore, if God grants us grace, we want also to treat the Gospels in this way, so that we can not only feed our souls in [the Gospels] but also put them on as armor for teaching, and thus fight against all enemies. Thus we will be equipped with both pasture and weapons. 
*- Luther’s Works, American Edition, ed. Christopher Boyd Brown. vol. 75, Church Postil I (Saint Louis: CPH, 2013) 206.

I sincerely hope that you agree with both excerpts, especially if you call yourself a Lutheran.

It's no secret that the past couple of weeks have ignited a firestorm between false doctrine apologists and those who want to expose and remove it as soon as possible out of genuine love and concern for their brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.

That brings us back to our original question: What's So Special About Being Lutheran? The following 36-minute lecture delivered in 2013 by Rev. Todd Wilken will answer that very important question.

Gottesdienst Oktoberfest 2013: The Rev Todd Wilken On Being Lutheran 

Such a pastoral, sober-minded presentation for us to prayerfully consider.

What really surprised me was his point that while we should never become apathetic about false doctrine, we also shouldn't assume that things will change so dramatically for the better in our own lifetimes. Wow!

That was a shock when I first heard it, but he's right, isn't he? I mean, much like the "Missionalists" are always making things sound so "urgent" all the time, "Confessionalists" like me have been guilty of the same thing in some respects.

I've been focused on the immediate, short-term rather than the delayed, long-term.

To put it another way, any time I've tried to make a bold confession of faith in the church and public arena, I've treated the whole cause as though it were a sprint instead of a marathon.

I suppose it's similar to the type of thing that Pastors go through when they are called to serve a new congregation only to find that it takes several years (maybe even decades!) of God-given faithfulness, patience, and perseverance to truly change that congregation's doctrine and practice to where it needs to be.

We find that Rev. Wilken's statements echo Rev. Harrison's when he wrote, "To act pastorally means that change takes time and teaching."

That's why I think that the better approach, from now on, is to be much more realistic about things like Pastor Wilken said and like my new acquaintance encouraged me to be (Matthew 5:11; John 13:16; John 15:20).

Maybe then I won't get so hung up on "hurt feelings" all the time, which can lead to a pity party of self-loathing and, if I'm not careful, self-righteousness too.

Even so, for me, being Lutheran means something.

Maybe it's because of where I came from and how I almost caused "shipwreck" to my own faith due to all the false teachers and their false teachings that I enthusiastically believed, taught, and confessed as an Evangelical that rejected all denominations (1 Timothy 1:19).

Whatever the reason, I no longer apologize for being a Lutheran like I used to, but I embrace it and believe it's the most bold, faithful, historical, orthodox confession of "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3) there is.

How do I know? After all, I was wrong once before, so how do I know I'm right this time? That's a fair question. All I can say is that having an actual Book of Concord where all of the Lutheran Confessions are written down and publicly available for anyone and everyone to read for themselves gives you the opportunity to verify if the things I believe, teach, and confess are an accurate and clear confession of Biblical truth.

Take comfort, my dear friends. For those of you who are non-Lutherans (or for you "Lutherans-In-Name-Only") I like what Luther himself said, which speaks to us through the ages...

"The first thing I ask is that people should not make use of my name, and should not call themselves Lutherans but Christians. What is Luther? The teaching is not mine. Nor was I crucified for anyone. How did I, poor stinking bag of maggots that I am, come to the point where people call the children of Christ by my evil name?"

In a Lutheran layman's terms, what's so special about being Lutheran? Christ-centered, cross-focused preaching and teaching that's about "CHRIST For You!" as opposed to a Christ-less, cross-less brand of preaching and teaching that's about "YOU For Christ!" instead.  

NOTE: I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or a Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this note, I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little over a year ago. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries. I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a dude's diary in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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