Commentary

Celebrating our Lutheran Genes

Luherans have kept the balance of Word and Sacrament.

As Lutherans we have a history of leading the way through difficult times. When the church was at a crisis point years ago, leadership used the new technology of the day to engage the people in leading the church through the decline it was facing. Martin Luther used the printing press to put into the people’s hands the clarity of the Gospel — and the church was “reformed.”

At a conference I attended recently, a Southern Baptist and a United Methodist both reflected that Lutherans have in their genes the ability to lead the church through these difficult times. Our history is one of embracing new technology and using it to transform the church while still keeping our solid theological grounding.

Lutherans have kept the balance of Word and Sacrament. Professor Leonard Sweet says that in pre-modern times, for Christians the focus was on the centrality of Holy Communion. In modern times the focus has trended toward reading and proclaiming of the Word. Through this swinging of the pendulum, Lutherans have held firm to Word and Sacrament in our worship. In a workshop at this conference, Sweet practically pleaded with us Lutherans to lead the way for the rest of the church with this balance.

Our Lutheran theology embraces dichotomies: now and not yet; saint and sinner; Law and Gospel. In modern culture, young people are increasingly living with a dichotomy of their own: they use technology, which pulls them to their computers, but they also seek relationships in community.

The river of congregational life is deep and wide and flowing mightily, but today’s river looks different from what it did as recently as five years ago. We are called into the river, even as it leads us through currents. We can no longer stand on the side and expect to grow. It’s time to jump into the water and celebrate the river of life in Christ.

* * *

Buuck is pastor of the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in southwest Minneapolis. This essay is condensed from one which appeared in his parish newsletter, Shepherd’s Staff. It is published here with permission.