Monthly Archives: July 2016

Back in the USA

We’ve just landed in Detroit where we have a several hour layover. Upon arrival we saw the news of the shootings in Munich, just hours after our departure. We’re saddened along with the rest of the world over the senseless violence and death suffered once again. We join our prayers with yours for peace, and healing.


We spent the last two days of our journey in Munich (or Munchen in German). We visited the sobering Dachau Concentration Camp, city tour of Munich, the spectacular Nymphenburg Palace, an Art Museum, Neuschwanstein Castle, and the Hofbrauhaus for our final dinner. It was a great few days and a great journey! Tomorrow we leave early in the morning on our long trip home getting in late. I think we were all appreciative of the time together, the experience(s), and growing in our faith and understanding of it, as well as growing closer together. We’re grateful to have had the opportunity and for the time to do it.
Munich @ a Beerhaus

 Like Berlin, Munich wasn’t germane to Luther, Bach, or the Reformation. In fact, Bavaria was, and still is, a stronghold of Catholicism in Germany (with the exception of a few places, like Rothenburg). On the other hand, this seems a fitting place to espouse the last tenet of the Reformation I have chosen to present: simul justus et pecattor, or simultaneously saint and sinner.

 You are not a saint sometimes in some places, like on Sunday mornings when in Church, or when doing a good deed for someone in need. Nor are you a sinner sometimes in some places like on a Thursday night in a Beerhaus overindulging. Rather, you are both, at all times, everywhere! These are your natures, and you therefore act out of them. As long as you live in this flesh and in this world you will struggle with sin (Romans 7, Paul wonders why he keeps doing the very things he knows he doesn’t want to do… “Wretched man that I am, who will rescue me from this body of death?”). 

 A saint is not defined by some man-made criteria of performing so many good deeds, achieving a miracle, and attaining to some level called sainthood, as defined in the Roman Catholic Church. Rather, in the New Testament, the term is used synonymously with Christian. Paul addresses the saints in Ephesus, Corinth, etc. not as a special group within the congregation(s) but to the congregation(s) themselves. What makes a saint is not our deeds but our nature, or rather Christ’s nature within us, bestowed on us, given to us (as noted in “Two Kinds of Righteousness”). Out of this nature we also live and act, doing good as Christ is alive in us.
 Munich also seems the fitting place to share my favorite quote from Luther on the power of the Word. That is finally what Luther, Bach, and the Reformation was all about – the power of God’s Word. Whether placed to beautiful music, engaging preaching, persuasive treatises, or forceful debates, God’s Word has the power to change lives and the world, to kill and to make alive, to bring the powerful down from their thrones and lift up the lowly, to raise the dead to new life.

 “Philip” is in reference to Philip Melanchthon, Luther’s friend and colleague from Wittenberg. Nicholaus von “Amsdorf” was also a close friend and colleague of Luther’s from Wittenberg. Amsdorf was present with Luther at the Leipzig debate early on in the Reformation, as well as accompanying Luther to the Diet of Worms where Luther went on trial and was excommunicated, and he was one of the few who were privy to Luther’s hiding at the Wartburg. Philip and Amsdorf, along with Bugenhagen, Justus Jonas, and a few others spent a lot of time together at the Black Cloister (Luther’s House) dining together and drinking beer over lively conversations (many recorded in Table Talks). The quote below certainly could have been shared at the Luther House, but in the place where he lived out his calling as a father and husband I wanted to focus on Luther’s teaching on vocation.   

 From a sermon he preached in 1522, when some people were blaming him and others praising him for the upheaval taking place, the wild fire spreading, the movement that would become known as the Reformation, Luther responded:

“I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philips and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything… I let the Word do its work… When we spread the Word alone and let it alone do the work, that distresses [Satan]. For [the Word] is almighty, and takes captive the hearts, and when the hearts are captured the work will fall of itself.”


We’re in Munich now. I’ll talk more about that tomorrow. For now I thought I’d share a few extras on Reformation sites and theology – these are of some places we didn’t get to visit, but I thought would be fitting to share some additional tenets. 


 In April, 1521, Martin Luther appeared before Emperor Charles V at the Imperial Diet of Worms where Luther was ordered to recant his teachings, especially his attacks on the Infallibility of the Pope. Six months prior Pope Leo X had issued a Papal bull (an official papal document) denouncing Luther’s 95 Theses and other tracks published by the Wittenberg theologian. Luther famously burned the Papal bull and sent the Pope a copy of his treatise, The Freedom of the Christian. By January, 1521, when the Diet commenced, Pope Leo had already excommunicated Luther. 

 Guaranteed safe passage, Luther appeared to defend his theology. No opportunity for debate or defense was allowed. The hearings, lasting several days (even weeks); they were clearly hearings, a trial, not a debate. Luther was ordered to recant or face charges of heresy, which would result in a sentence of being burned at the stake. It was on this occasion Luther famously said, “Here I stand; I can do no other, so help me God, Amen.” He, and his confession would stand on the Word of God. If one could/would convince him his theology was in error based on Scripture he would gladly recant, otherwise, his conscience was bound.

 The Edict of Worms was later issued in May denouncing Luther as a heretic and sentencing him to death by burning at the stake. He lived the rest of his life with a bounty on his head. On Luther’s return trip home to Wittenberg, where he would await execution, Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony, intercepted his traveling party, kidnapping Luther and taking him to the Warburg Castle for safe keeping. 

 We are not traveling to Worms – again, due to time and costs we had to make choices. There isn’t much to see commemorating the Reformation except a series of statues of famous reformers, including Luther. My favorite statue is of a woman with her hand up, as if in protest. This statue, the Protestierende Speyer, is in memory of the city of Speyer and the Protestants protest against the Roman Empire and Roman Catholic Church at the Diet of Speyer in 1529. While we think of the Reformation as a movement of primarily theologians arguing over semantics, it was far more than that. Perhaps most inspiring was the sacrifices of lay people. It was lay leaders, Christian men and women, at the Diet of Speyer who risked life, home, and property to take a stand for the Evangelical faith. It was from this Diet that the term “Protestant” was coined to describe this movement and new Church emerging. But that term, Protestant, is in reference not to Luther, Zwingli, Calvin or other theologians who took a stand for the Gospel, but these lay leaders willing to risk everything.  


 Marburg is also not a town we’re visiting (again, not much to see there), but it was significant to the history of the Reformation. In 1529, the same year as the Diet of Speyer where and when the term “Protestant” was being coined, Philip of Hesse invited Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli (the leading Swiss Reformer) and several others to a Colloquy in Marburg. His intention was to unite the various Reformers and develop one Protestant Church. The world would then have the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Church representing Christianity. 

 14 Articles of faith were presented. If the group could agree on these 14 statements of faith there could then be one Protestant Church. They agreed on 13 out of the 14. The one Article of faith they could not agree upon was the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. Zwingli and others understood the Sacrament symbolically, focusing attention on the word “remembrance” in the Words of Institution. Luther argued for the literal meaning and insisted on taking Jesus’ words literally when he says, “This is my body… This is my blood.” While Luther didn’t agree with the Roman Catholic teaching of transubstantiation – that the substance of the elements are transformed from bread and wine into literal flesh and blood – Luther did believe in the “real presence” of Christ in, with, and under the forms of bread and wine. This isn’t symbolic! Rather, Christ’s promise is realized and the Holy Spirit acts in a tangible way to come to you and forgive. As discussed in Two Kinds of Righteousness, in the Sacraments the focus is not on our doing something (remembering, repenting, etc.) but on Christ being the actor and we being the recipients.

 One little word, “is” or “est” in Latin, is all that stood in the way of uniting the Protestants. But it would have been a false unity. One little word can be worth fighting, and even dying over; for what’s at stake is the Gospel itself – freedom, forgiveness, life, and salvation.


 Weimar became Lutheran in the year 1525. 1525 was a pivotal year in the Reformation and in Luther’s life. It was in 1525 the Luther married. It was in 1525 that Luther wrote his most important treatise, The Bondage of the Will, against the acclaimed Erasmus of Rotterdam. And it was in 1525 that Luther wrote to the Princes encouraging them to squelch the peasant uprising leading to slaughtering and massacre of the poor throughout the lands. Later Luther wrote to the Princes for leniency in their exercise of their office, but the damage was done and Luther would forever be remembered for his contribution to the unnecessary bloodshed of the poor.

 There are many things from our heritage we as Lutherans can be proud of; many attributes of Luther we can admire. But Luther was also a sinful human being with a dark side and must be remembered with a critical eye as well. There were times when Luther let his words fly without restraint. Sometimes those have left us with a smile as his crass freedom; at other times we wince wishing he had bridled it. 

 Besides his contributions to the permissiveness the Princes seized to wield the sword on the poor and defenseless peasants, Luther’s scathing attacks on the Jews lead to the one of the greatest atrocities in human history, the Holocaust. The Nazis seized on Luther’s words using them as fuel for their rhetoric of hate and justification for murder.

 I don’t believe that Luther was anti-Semitic. There are places where Luther defends the Jews, speaks well of Jews he knows, but the few places (e.g. Against the Jews and Their Lies) where he does denounce them with terrible language muzzles whatever good he may have said. 

 While there’s no excusing such vitriolic language that’s led to such inhumanity, it is helpful to put things into context to realize that it wasn’t intended anti-Semeticism, or to give permission to such evil. There spoke in such hateful and hurtful ways about the Pope (whom he referred to as the AntiChrist), the Jews, the Turks, pagans, and anyone and everyone who stood against the gospel of Christ and in the way of people coming to faith and trust in His grace. Is it ironic that his passion for grace would lead to such ungracious treatment of those who stood in its way? Unfortunately, yes. Is it excusable that such language would be employed that leads to hatred and murder? Not in any way! It is shameful.

 As I said, there is much to admire about Luther and our heritage, but it is not all pretty. Do we therefore dismiss everything because of the dark side, the underbelly of our legacy? No. But neither should we boast too proudly. If we boast at all, let it be in the Lord – pointing, as Luther does (warts and all) in the Altarpiece in Wittenberg, to Christ.


For all of the rain we had the first half of the trip, now it’s sun and heat. Just in time as we stayed in one of the most beautiful little Bavarian towns, Rothenburg. It may be touristy, but it’s still very cool. We spent the morning and early afternoon enjoys the sites and shops until we departed for Augsburg. Augsburg was very important to the Reformation, yet there’s little noted in the city to distinguish it. The highlight, for our purposes, is St Anna’s – a beautiful church that was formerly an Augustinian Monastery, and where Luther stayed when he was in Augsburg in 1518 appearing before Cardinal Cajetan.  
June 25, 1530 (13 years after Luther posted the 95 Theses), Christian Beyer, a Saxon Chancellor and leading lay person, presented 28 Articles/Statements of Faith at the Imperial Diet of Augsburg before Emperor Charles V and emissaries from the Vatican. Written by Philip Melanchthon (Luther’s friend and colleague), these Articles have become the primary document defining Lutheran doctrine. There were two versions written, one in German and one in Latin, both of which are presented in the Lutheran Book of Concord; Beyer presented the Latin version which took two hours, from 3-5pm. Windows in the Chapel of the Episcopal Palace were open on that hot summer day and the crowds gathered outside could hear every word of this momentous presentation.

 In March that year, Elector John the Steadfast invited Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon, Justus Jonas, and Johannes Bugenhagen to join him in Torgau to develop a plan for reform to present at the Diet in Augsburg three months later. They developed what became known as the Torgau Articles outlining their desire for reform in Church practices. The primary purpose was not to settle theological differences and disputes, but to offer an outline of reform.

 However, before the “Lutherans” arrived in Augsburg in May (without Luther of course, since he had a bounty on his head) Johann Eck had disseminated 404 erroneous Articles denouncing Protestant beliefs – presenting them as representation of Luther’s theology. Eck had not only many false accusations that bore no truth whatsoever, but many of the statements that were true were not necessarily true of Luther. Eck had lumped together all Protestant teachings together including many from Lutheran Enthusiasts and Swiss Reformers whom Luther disputed. Instead of presenting the Torgau Articles Melanchthon rewrote their presentation now addressing these false accusations and defining what Lutherans believe. The first 21 Articles articulate “Lutheran” theology or doctrine, while the last 7 Articles outline proposals for reform. 

 Article IV of the Augsburg Confession, on Justification by Faith, has been the drumbeat of the Lutheran Church, the heartbeat of the Lutheran witness, the cornerstone of our theology, the foundation of our faith. To borrow a line from George Forell (one of the greatest Lutheran scholars of the last century and professor at the University of Iowa), Justification by Faith is the particular voice Lutherans sing in the Christian Choir. This is the note we are called to sing boldly and beautifully. Without this voice the witness isn’t as rich, or full, or complete. The world needs to hear it; you and I need to hear it!

“It is taught among us that we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God through our own merit, work, or satisfactions, but that we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God out of grace for Christ’s sake through faith when we believe that Christ has suffered for us and that for his sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us. For God will regard and reckon this faith as righteousness in his sight, as St Paul says in Romans 3 [:21-26] and 4[:5].”

As Luther once said, “We are saved by faith alone; but the faith that saves is never alone.”

We’re ok

I understand there was a knife attack on a train around Wurtzburg. That is in the region near where we were yesterday but we have not been traveling by train – we’re on a coach/bus. We’re all ok. That said, please keep in your prayers all those who are not ok because of this attack. Our world is need of healing. We are all in need of peace, grace, mercy, prayers, healing. Peace be with you all.

Eisenach & Rothenburg

It was an early morning as we had our longest travel day today. We started out by visiting the Wartburg Castle outside Eisenach. It was a beautiful day – finally! And good that it was since the views from the Wartburg are breathtaking, looking out over the Thuringia Forest and the town of Eisenach with the German architecture and red roofs. We then spent some time in Eisenach visiting the Lutherhaus and Bachhaus, St Georgia’s where they both had been choir boys (some 200 year apart), and having lunch in town. Bach was born and raised in Eisenach, Luther had spent some time going to school here in his younger years.
 After lunch we headed south from the region of Thuringia to Bavaria to stay the night in Rothenburg. This is a medieval town with a wall surrounding it – very touristy, and great! Highlights, besides walking the wall, are shopping, the Museum of Torture, and The Night Watchman’s Tour, which is a real treat. Rothenburg was not instrumental to the Reformation or Bach, but it was one of the few cities in Bavaria that became Lutheran, which they did the year Luther died. I had the pleasure of worshipping in their cathedral, St Jacob’s, last time I visited here. One of the most beautiful altarpieces is in the choir loft of this cathedral – a wood carving by Tilman Riemenschneider, completed the same year Luther enrolled in the monastery, 1505.