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June 2015 - The Birth of the Lutheran Church

The Birth of the Lutheran Church

            I imagine that most Lutherans would readily recognize the significance of October 31, 1517; the day Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses against the Sale of Indulgences on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, effectively launching the Reformation.  But Lutherans should be just as familiar with June 25th, 1530, when at 3:00 in the afternoon, a group of German Princes and a couple hundred close friends were gathered in support of a document being read to Emperor Charles V.  The place was Augsburg, Germany, and the occasion was the reading of the Augsburg Confession in German to a hushed and tense audience.

            The Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire had been long vexed by the religious disunity and uprisings in his realm that threatened to weaken his power and ability to meet the threat of the “Turk” (Muslims) that literally was at his eastern gate.   He wanted to unify the Christians under one banner to be able to overcome the enemy, but the battles between the so-called “Lutherans” and the Papacy threatened this hope.  He had thus ordered the Diet (meeting) at Augsburg to solve the problem and unify the church.

            The Lutherans who had never wanted to start their own church, but only wanted to clean up the abuses of Rome, saw this as the perfect opportunity to defend themselves from the false accusations of their enemies (that they were radical heretics, denying even the most basic tenets of the Christians Faith), and instead, could clearly confess and show that they believed, taught and preached the historic, apostolic faith from the scriptures. 

            However, Charles’ idea of unity was different – unity would come only when the German princes would denounce Lutheran teaching and preaching and come back to the Roman fold – and to demonstrate such unity, they were to forbid Lutheran preaching during the Diet and they were to join him in the Corpus Christi procession the next day.  The choice was clear – come back to Rome or else.

            George, Margrave of Brandenburg however replied: “Before I let anyone take from me the Word of God and ask me to deny my God, I will kneel and let them strike off my head.”  The boldness and conviction of this German prince shook the emperor who said in broken German, “Not cut off head, dear prince.  Not cut off head.”

            A few days later, in a loud and clear voice, Saxon Chancellor Christian Beyer read the Augsburg Confession – The Christian Faith cleared of the brush of centuries of false teachings had been declared!  The Augsburg Confession is the foundational document and confession for the Lutheran Church.  Thus June 25th, 1530 really marks the birth of the Confessional, Evangelical Lutheran Church.   I would hope that this date is one that you mark and remember as much as October 31st, 1517. 

As our Missouri District meets in convention this month of June, let us pray God’s blessing upon our delegates and leaders that as our forefathers in the Faith were faithful, steadfast and bold in their confession that they too, along with ourselves, will be faithful to the scriptures and confessions as well as seeing to the bold professing of that Faith to each other and especially to the world around us.

            And, as June 25th approaches, I would pray for each of you that with your eyes fixed upon the faithfulness and sacrificial love of your Lord, you too will be given the grace to remain faithful and steadfast to the Faith and Confession handed down to you, as well as bold in confessing and living that faith to the people around you in your daily life.  What incredible treasures and gifts have been given to you Lutherans!

Pastor Reiser

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