From Pastor Ben Vineyard
This is my first Reformation as a pastor and it’s a big one: the 500th anniversary of Luther posting the 95 Theses in Wittenberg. Now I’m a pastor in this great tradition. Special 500th anniversary stoles were even donated to the seminary to be given out to pastors receiving their first call in 2017. I timed this just right!
There’s much to celebrate with this 500-year milestone. Luther began the process of clarifying the faith, returning the church to what had been rightly taught in the past but clouded in his present. Luther and his companions recalled and proclaimed the ancient faith, that God’s grace in Jesus is pro me, for me (and for you!). God’s saving work is done extra nos, outside of us, something God accomplishes in Jesus and declares to you and me!
Hearts were being liberated and returned to proper alignment with God, trusting not in what could be done, trusting not even in how much faith one had, but rather trusting alone in what God said about them: “On account of Jesus who died and rose, your sin is forgiven. You are forever my beloved child sealed to me in baptism. I will nurture you in a new life of trust, providing you a meal for your strengthening and a community for your journey. Be filled with my Spirit to walk a new journey.”
This is great news indeed! Forever good news! And it is forever the heart of Christian faith, that by Christ alone we receive God’s grace. It alone grafts us into life with God. We trust these words said to us and about us by God our Father, that we are chosen, forgiven, and loved. These things we proclaim and meditate on as they come from Scripture alone. Here we stand; we can really do no other.
These things will swirl in my mind as we celebrate Reformation this year. One other thing will too, a recent learning from the seminary. I cherish the idea that “Protestant” doesn’t really capture the essence of Lutheranism. Luther did not split from the Roman Catholic church. He declared what Rome once believed yet had then clouded. His desire was to see the church unified and focused on Christ and the gifts of God once again.
We are not protesting. We are being and we are trusting what God says about us and the world around us. We are the church and you’ll find pleasantly revealed in the Augsburg Confession a regula fide, a regular or normal content of faith that’s always been taught in the true, universal (small “c”) catholic church. The Augsburg Confession speaks back to God and the people what the Scriptures have faithfully presented since God inspired their writing.
The most beautiful thing about this is that we LCMS Lutherans are not the only ones. We are not alone. While the Augsburg Confession is a fantastic confession (a speaking back to God what God has first spoken), having the AC in your back pocket does you little good unless your heart is bent to trust in Him of whom it speaks. The Confession echoes the Bible and the Bible echoes Jesus. Christ crucified. Christ risen. Christ reigning. Christ coming again. All for me, for you, for all Christians who trust in Jesus the Christ. We trust what is said about Jesus and said about us. We stand firm. We can do no other.
Yes, we stand, filled with conviction. Our hearts release pride in having the answers and are filled with compassion and peace. Trusting all the more in what God says about us, we begin to trust his call to follow him, to be disciples, to be a people who declare the Word of God in our neighborhoods and a few corners of the globe. We declare in word and action, voice and silence, story and song. We declare. We approach the world. We are filled with the peace of Christ which surpasses anything we can understand. And we move, filled with grace, trusting God who says, “You are my beloved child…”
To nurture this process and journey in our church, Pastor Mark, Pastor Phil and Rebeka Cook, Jenny and me (Pastor Ben Vineyard), and Al and Julie von der Linden have started learning a specific rhythm that can be repeated over and over again to help people become closer followers of Christ and join with others to be a people on mission.
We were just in Omaha learning more about this through an LCMS organization called Pastoral Leadership Institute(PLI) – Discipleship to Missional Community (D2MC). The time in Omaha helped us recognize that the transition to becoming a discipling leader begins personally. We had the opportunity to see it, study it and experience a life integrated in discipling as they prepare to lead.
This formation process will continue for us. We’ll keep learning and you’ll keep seeing the fruit of it at Trinity. We want to all the more participate in your growth as Christians, to provide relationships and leaders who invite you and challenge you in the trusting walk of faith. We want to get better and better at this that the world around us may hear the Good Word of Jesus spoken to them and about them, that God loves all in Jesus, that God grants new life to all through forgiveness and grace.
Be filled with everlasting hope that your hearts may abound in the peace of Christ our Lord. Amen.