Once again, it’s October 31, a day when we Lutherans reflect on our glorious history. It was on this date in 1517 that Martin Luther nailed the pope to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg and then went begging door to door for candy to give his children after his family had enjoyed a dinner of slow-roasted savory papal bull of excommunication.
As we all know, this took place during the “Babylonian captivity” of the papacy, when Vatican City was moved brick by brick from Rome to Avignon by the Babylonians using forced European peasant labor. This understandably angered the poor Germans, who were not in an economic situation to buy “indulgences” to get out of the heavy lifting. The arduous journey took its toll and many fell by the wayside, crushed under ancient relics, statues of Mary, Sistine Chapels, PopeMobiles, and JohnTetzels.
Fortunately, Luther prevailed and by 1580, he and the other reformers (whose names aren’t important) were able to eat a Thanksgiving meal of barbecued papal bull of celebration in Concordia, MO.
History’s all fine and good, you say, but what does this mean for us in 2008? Well friend, we now have the Freedom of the Gospel. How wonderful! About this time every year, we have the freedom to hear the Roman Catholic church bashed from our pulpits during our “special” Reformation worship services, where we show we’re free to treat the Divine Liturgy like a tower of Legos: we can knock it down, take it apart, and rebuild it however the mood strikes us and still consider ourselves “liturgical” and “confessional” “Lutherans”. We can have an Invocation, Kyrie, general Confession and Absolution (or the popular non-confession and limp “assurance”), Prayer (Hey, the Gloria takes too much time), Lessons, Hymn, Sermon, Offering, (everyone knows the Creeds and more time was needed for the Sermon-it’s a pulpit-poundin’ festival service), Hymn, Prayer, Benediction.
What’s missing from that “liturgical” service leads to our next freedom: Freedom from the Gospel. As Lutherans, we were taught that we have the Meansofgrace. The Meansofgrace, also known as WordandSacrament, are three (and only three) equal and to some extent interchangeable ways we receive God’s grace. They are Baptism, God’s Word (as contained in the NIV), and the Lord’s Supper. Now, you don’t want to go overboard here. If you have one Meansofgrace on a Sunday, you’re doing fine. However, an infant Baptism doesn’t really count, so on those Sundays, it’s safest to have two Meansofgraces. What you really want is God’s Word, not Christ mind you, but the BIBLE. That’s why you hear a sermon every week, though you don’t necessarily hear about Christ every week, except maybe in a “Gospel paragraph” if the preacher remembers to include one. If you have a sermon weekly, the Lord’s Supper becomes superfluous. Yes, yes, there’s some rule about having to go four times a year, but receiving the Holy Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ every week is just showy. Do you really sin so much that you feel you need the Sacrament that often? If your sins are weighing that heavily on you, maybe the problem is your weak faith. If you can’t work this out by yourself sitting at home with your NIV then fine, go to a church that offers the Lord’s Supper twice a month, but when the pastor stops in front of you and says, ”The Body of Christ given for you”, don’t you dare give your “Amen” while the host is in midair in front of you (Obviously, you also would not have kneeled, bowed, genuflected, or made the sign of the cross within three feet of your or anyone else’s body at any time during the service either). Certainly, we are plagued with some Romanizing guys and gals in the Lutheran church today who will try to convince you that these ceremonies are “Lutheran” and “catholic with a small ‘c’”, and they might try to show you in some overly large book what our church officially teaches, but really, what are you going to trust: some book written hundreds of years ago or your own feelings and memories of what you were taught growing up?