“I Believe that God Made Me and All Preachers…”
…to misquote Martin Luther.
Of course, Luther’s famous words of explanation to the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed read: “I believe that God made me and all creatures (preachers included) and that he has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears and all my members, my reason and all my senses…” (emphasis mine). Unfortunately, the bolded words sometimes trip up God’s preachers and the rest of his creatures, particularly when it comes to dealing with ecclesiastical matters.
We do believe that God alone creates saving faith in people by the power of his Holy Spirit working through his Word and through the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. The work of salvation belongs to God. We can’t improve on that.
It is also true that we make arrangements to deliver God’s good gifts to his people. All of us, preachers and other creatures involved in the church do so. We build buildings, furnish them, use organizational and accounting methods, choose worship service times, etc. The list is almost endless. And we do so according to our best judgment and common sense, according to what will help God’s people receive his gifts and help those who are far from him come closer. It’s an exercise of our “reason” and “senses.”
Yet other elements of judgment and common sense seem somehow to be more controversial among us—certain types or forms of music, the use of video screens in worship services, musical instrumentation, the inclusion or exclusion of particular parts of the historic liturgy, whether or not to have a small group ministry, etc. This list, too, is almost endless. Those who are innovative or creative are accused of somehow trying to improve on or replace the means of grace.
Without question, any methodology should be examined closely to be sure that God’s Word is not compromised by it, nor a false witness given. But a false witness is also given when rules are insisted upon that are not found in Scripture. Jesus called the purveyors of such regulations “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:27-28). Absent a clear word of Scripture, God’s people have freedom!
So let’s exercise our “reason and all (our) senses” freely in service to the Gospel. Let’s also recognize that it’s a good gift from God when others do so, just as it was when St. Paul “became all things to all men, so that by all possible means (he) might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).
By: Rev. Jon Braunersreuther
Mission & Ministry Facilitator, Area D