Thursday, September 24, 2009

... but there is a storm ...

It's no secret that I've been a member of WordAlone for many years. Even though those in WordAlone who have been "politically active" in the ELCA can sometimes be as difficult to handle as Martin Luther was in his worst moments, I have found the teaching connected with the organization generally faithful to Lutheranism and orthodox Christianity.

I'm writing this post partly because, in our congregation and community, WordAlone, and its association with Lutheran CORE have gotten a bad name among some. I'm concerned that what these organizations stand are often judged, not on the basis of what they teach and advocate, but because the people within the organization sometimes sound alarmist or overly worried. They, and I, are sinners, in need of God's grace, but so is every messenger of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to pay attention to their message more than to their personalities.

That does not mean we will agree with everything they say. I just think we need to take it into account.

Like Martin Luther, passionate people sometimes are more harsh and less careful than they should be. They speak strongly and with great emotion. Often, if they are wise, they go back and apologize for the words they have used or the "tone" of their speaking or writing. Of course, they are human and they do not always admit their faults.

But that does not take away the truth of what strident and even obnoxious people say. The person whose name is on our church, Martin Luther, is famous for his cruel words--especially against people such as the Jews. As someone pointed out at our denominational forum on Sunday evening, Lutheran Churches have apologized for what he has said--see the end of this post for some of what was actually said in apology. It is so sad. What Luther said was responsible, in part, for the holocaust. I talk about that in teaching our youth and in our new member classes.

Fortunately, Martin Luther himself also apologized for speaking too strongly against certain people. Evidently he knew he was a hot head at times. You can see one apology in a movie depiction of Martin Luther's trial before the Holy Roman Emperor and the authority of the Roman Catholic Church at this link:

At his trial at the "Diet of Worms," (click the colored words to find out what that is) Martin Luther is asked if he will "recant" what he has written. In reply, he says that his writings are not all the same. Some even his enemies admit are helpful and true. But he admits that he has been too harsh (quote from the Luther movie):
"I have written against private persons and individuals who uphold Roman tyranny and have attacked my own efforts to encourage piety to Christ. I confess that I have written too harshly. I am but a man and I can err. Only let my errors be proven by scripture and I will revoke my work and throw my books into the fire."
It seems to me that, in his trial before Emporer Charles V, Martin Luther asks that we look beyond his personality and instead focus on the truth (and/or error) of what he says. I hope, and I pray, as we deal with the ELCA's current storm, that we do that too. Because, if we deal with difficulties in the church by focusing on personalities, instead of on the basis of God's Word and plain reason, we will be lost.

That's why I am so thankful for the devotion I referred to in yesterday's post entitled "Where We Put Our Trust." It points us to the Lord as the source of our peace. I did find it necessary, however, to revise it a bit after reading "Listen to the Lullaby or the Canary" found at ... I changed the last paragraph (before the prayer) to read:
"Now, nothing I said here should to make you think there is no storm. A storm--a spiritual battle--is actually occurring in the ELCA. There is great danger. But, in the storm, remember this—Our Lord does not change, and neither do those things that strengthen our precious faith."
The messenger of "Listen to the Lullaby and the Canary" may be speaking too harshly for our ears, but I think it's an important message to consider. I do not think we can deny that there is a storm. Even so, there is no need for fear. The Lord will bring us through.

Lutherans all around the world have apologized for Luther's antisemitism. The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod said:
"While The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod holds Martin Luther in high esteem for his bold proclamation and clear articulation of the teachings of Scripture, it deeply regrets and deplores statements made by Luther which express a negative and hostile attitude toward the Jews."
The ELCA offerred an even stronger condemnation:
"In the spirit of that truth-telling, we who bear his name and heritage must with pain acknowledge also Luther’s anti-Judaic diatribes and the violent recommendations of his later writings against the Jews. As did many of Luther’s own companions in the sixteenth century, we reject this violent invective, and yet more do we express our deep and abiding sorrow over its tragic effects on subsequent generations."

No comments:

Post a Comment