“Always Finding Our Center”
Dear Members and Friends of our ELS:
Anniversaries seize our attention. They can make us think and thank. The 500th anniversary of Lutheranism gives us plenty to ponder and thankfully treasure. In particular, this applies to a church body bearing the name of the great Reformer.
Members of our synod could compile quite a list of valuable gifts bestowed by the Lutheran Reformation. The catechisms, the Bible translation of Die Heilige Schrift, commentaries by Luther, the confessional writings of the Lutheran Church, the writings on the Sacraments, the bold stand on God’s Word alone, the wonderful hymns, devotions, and sermons, even the humor and wit of Dr. Luther are things we hold dear. But one treasure rises above all and makes us most grateful. We hold high Luther’s passion for transmitting the chief teaching of the Bible. We sinners are justified – declared forgiven, holy, and righteous – on account of the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and this good news is received by faith in order to have everlasting life in heaven.
No greater doctrine can be proclaimed by the pastors, teachers, and missionaries trained under the guidance of a Lutheran synod than what the Apostle Paul has clearly set forth in Romans: All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (3:23-24).
During Lent, we are driven to the cross to see how all our sins have been put on the Lamb of God sacrificed in our place. Therefore, we do not bear them. Christ has borne them for us! In his comments on Isaiah 53, Luther stresses how the article of justification not only brings comfort but also strikes down any kind of self-righteousness. He writes under Isaiah 53:11:
“Therefore we must diligently observe this article. I see that there are many snorers treating this article. They are the ones who consider these words the way a man does who looks at his face in a mirror (as James says, 1:23f). The moment they come upon another object or business, they are overwhelmed, and they forget the grace of God. For that reason you must most diligently consider this article and not allow yourself to be led astray by other teachings, occupations, or persecutions.” (LW 17:231)
To be centered in the proclamation of justification is what we wish and pray for at all times. Sadly, many churches that once carried this Reformation treasure today fail to unveil it continually in pulpit and classroom. We ask our members and friends to pray pointedly that the “paradise-opening” doctrine for the young Martin Luther always attains and retains its scriptural prominence in the sanctuaries, educational institutions, and activities of our beloved Evangelical Lutheran Synod. By God’s grace, may it be so.
Rev. John A. Moldstad, ELS President