Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Bethany Bullet - November 1, 2011

This might sound like heresy, but the Reformation didn’t dawn with intentionality. However, the Reformation was defined by it! While not at its inception, at its culmination intentionality was at the heart of the Reformation

When Luther went to the church door in Wittenberg (October 31, 1517) to nail the 95 theses thereupon, he had no clue that one day Wittenberg would be a pilgrimage site and a tourist attraction. That almost 500 years later both the German nation (which did not exist at the time) and the Lutheran Church (which did not exist at the time) would be attempting to engage in a cooperative effort to build a world class museum/ attraction about the Reformation which began at the castle church in Wittenberg.

When Luther went to those doors he didn’t go intending to stir up trouble throughout the whole of the Roman church – he simply went there hoping to ease troubled hearts in his own Saxon congregation. When he questioned (and yes challenged) the whole system and doctrine of indulgences, he wasn’t planning to question the whole system and doctrine of salvation in the Catholic Church. But that is exactly what happened. Yet, when eventually confronted with that reality, Luther INTENTIONALLY made his stand on the truth of the Word.

Please watch this Youtube clip:

95 Theses

*If unable to open, copy/paste this into link into your browser:


A Bit of History: The 95 Theses were propositional statements through which Martin Luther, a Doctor of Theology, Professor of the University in Wittenberg, and member of the Augustinian Order was seeking to question and challenge the idea that purchasing a letter of indulgence could actually provide that which was promised - remission of sin.

· Can one buy forgiveness?

· Can the church actually sell it?

· And if it can, should it do so?

Those questions, among others, were at the heart of the 95 Theses. In fact, it was Luther’s contention that all such doing, would be to enrich the church and impoverish the people.

Luther had no intention of…

V Bringing the church to the brink of civil war,

V Making himself a Reformation hero,

V Starting a denomination that would end up bearing his name.

V Worming for himself an audience with cardinals, emperors, and popes

And certainly he had no intention of being declared a heretic and criminal. But all of that happened.

Theologically, it is true to state that all of this happened because the Spirit of God was moving. Reformation, like Pentecost, is an operation first and foremost of the Spirit of God!

Practically speaking, I think it is also true to say that all of this happened because when given the option to be quiet, change course, or shut-up and go away, Luther INTENTIONALLY shared the truth of the Word.

When confronted with the reality that others in history, who had said that the Bible ALONE was the source of truth (not the pope, tradition, or church history) were burned at the stake - Luther, nearing that same end, intentionally clung to the Word alone.

When TOLD publically to recant and deny his teachings [that Grace Alone is the means of forgiveness; that Faith Alone is the way God grants us salvation; that this the source of the church’s teaching must be the Word Alone or be declared an enemy of the church] Luther intentionally held to the word, “I cannot recant. My conscience is captive to the Word of God. HERE I STAND I CAN DO NO OTHER, GOD HELP ME!” Luther was not the first to intentionally stand on the truth regardless of the consequence.

In John the 6th chapter, we find our Lord Jesus Christ standing on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, having just walked across its surface. Those who had been with Him on the other side and were blessed to witness the miracle of the fish & loaves (and consequently eat their share) had found Him again seeking more to eat. Jesus told them not to work for food that spoils but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man would give them.

Now it is more risky to say what Jesus intended than what Luther intended – but I don’t think Jesus intended the people to start grumbling when He declared that He had come down from heaven, NOR do I think He intended for many of those that had been following Him to leave after hearing Him say that His body was real food and his blood real drink. However, Jesus INTENDED to share intentionally that which he had come to intentionally share - Himself (His body and blood given in bread and wine and into agony on the cross). He also intended that those who would remain with Him would do so not because they had hoped He could fill their bellies with more bread in the future but because they knew their souls would always be empty without Him. Such was the faith of Peter and the disciples who said in response to Jesus question, “Do you want to leave me to?” “Lord, to whom shall we go you have the words of eternal life.”

One fair interpretation of these events would be that taking your stand on the Word alone might leave you in a lonely place. For standing on the Word Alone may find us standing against the narcissism of the world or the Pietism of the Church. In John 6, Jesus stood against both. Worldly narcissism responded to Jesus’ words that He came down from heaven by, “Get out of town. We KNOW where you’re from. Mary and Joseph are your folks. Our wisdom can see through you!” Churchly Pietism responded to the words of Jesus that He would give the bread of life by, “Well you ain’t no Moses are you, we are Moses’ people, he gave manna and our forefathers ate for decades!”

Luther faced both as well. A narcissism that declared, “Martin you’re but one man and the Bible can’t level the playing field. There are those with more degrees, higher calls/positions in education, empire, and ecclesiology. You better back down.” And Pietism responded, “Our actions are imperative for salvation; even if those acts are only acts of penance. Without them, hence without us and our doing, God can’t do any saving.”

V Standing on the Word alone can lead us to the lonely place of facing the narcissism of the world, which sees humanity NOT as the gem of creation, but the pinnacle of evolution. Therefore, having decided about life’s origins, we are free to determine its beginning (when) or its living (how) a part from the Word.

V Standing on the Word alone can lead us to face the Pietism of the Church – even in the one that bears the Reformer’s name, in which sometimes we falsely begin to believe or act as if we are so much better than those who go to other churches, let alone those who belong to none. That we actually deserve what God provides in Christ and that somehow we are less sinful and therefore less needy of mercy and more worthy of salvation.

This Reformation day we are starting our annual review of what we call The Bethany Blueprint. The point for us to reflect upon today Sharing Intentionally! In that vein Reformation Day is NOT INTENDED to be Lutheran Pride Day – that may be a blessed outcome. It is certainly true that the events of the Reformation, returning the church to the Truth of the Word and the Gospel to its proper place, is something we can be proud of and we can also therefore have pride in the name Lutheran.

But this is not a day INTENDED to be ‘Sola Celebritas’ (i.e. Party only). Rejoice as you recall what Luther did when he took his stand on the Word of God alone. No, today is a day for us to affirm and renew ourselves to intentionally take our stand there as well, for if we don’t we got nothing to tell. But when on Word Alone, Grace Alone, Faith Alone, and Christ Alone, when we take our stand, well then, we have something to intentionally share.

In the face of the Narcissism of the world or the Pietism of the Church, Lutheranism says, “Our conscience is captive to the Word of God, for His are the words of eternal life, therefore here we will take our stand.” God help us do so Amen.

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer


Post a Comment

<< Home

Free Hit Counter