Here We Stand - And That's OK!
The president of our synod recently said, “The only guarantee we have in remaining truly Lutheran is in our church - including its pastors and church workers - confessing genuine Lutheran doctrine. That doctrine is presented in the Book of Concord.” What does this statement, the picture of “Martin Luther” on the front, and the month of August have to do with each other?
On August 4, 2002 I was ordained and installed as pastor here at Trinity. I meant what I vowed then and I still mean it today. I’m an un-apologetically LUTHERAN pastor. The foundation of my pastorate is to stand on, and preach and teach only, the pure doctrine of the Lutheran church. As stated above, doing so is the only guarantee we have of remaining truly Lutheran. As a Lutheran pastor I can only say that to remain genuinely Lutheran is to remain genuinely Christian. I’m not say that non-Lutherans aren’t Christians but I can guarantee you that everything that we as Lutherans believe, teach, and confess is 100% Christian because it is 100% from and in agreement with God’s Word. I think by now you’ve learned that I’m never going to be “generically Christian.” My many faithful predecessors would come to haunt me if I ever was. Even if I wanted to, I have no right to remove the foundation they have so faithfully laid before me. So that’s the August tie in along with the quote.
Here’s where our picture of Martin Luther comes in. The picture on the front of this newsletter comes from the 2003 Martin Luther movie. It’s a scene from when Luther was at the Diet of Worms. The reason I chose that picture over the countless ones available is because all the other ones had Luther looking rather angelic, openly defiant, or overly heroic. Luther had been told the day before to recant everything he had written. Though not said to him outright, the implication was that if he didn’t he would be executed by some grizzly means. After what I think was a tortured night for Martin, wrestling between truth and imminent death, I believe - like in the picture - he humbly stood before what he had written and preached from God’s holy Word and said, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.” No angelic, defiant, heroism. Just humble faith and truth. For Luther, convicted by God’s Word into the Truth, the Truth was worth dying for. Years later, at the presentation of the Augsburg Confession (contained now in the Book of Concord mentioned above), Lutheran nobility and laymen bowed their heads before Emperor Charles V - willing to have their heads removed rather than to give up one iota of what they held to be true from God’s Word and expressed in their Confession.
Go back even farther and you find St. Paul telling the Corinthian Christians: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” St. Paul said of Christian pastors that “he must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”
So, this month is 18 years for me being with you - first as vicar then as pastor. I meant what I vowed then and I still mean it today. Pastor Beckwith stands equally as firm in these vows. As a congregation we together have stood on the true Word and Sacraments of God and in the Divine Service of the Church and we have been blessed and grown as a congregation. We’ve stood so with our spiritual forebearers here at Trinity for the last 133 years. Martin Luther humbly stood in this Truth and Confession and the Gospel light shined again across Germany, Europe, and the world. The first century Christians and pastors stood firm and gave sound instruction in the faith and the Church stood against the mightiest heathen empire on earth. Now, here we stand and that’s OK. Actually, it’s better than OK, such faithfulness is promised to be blessed in Christ Jesus the ultimate faithful One. May we continue to stand firm, unwavering, unchanging, until our Lord returns. We cannot do otherwise. God help us! Amen.