Worship Sunday at 10:30

Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

  Northern Great Lakes SynodEvangelical Lutheran Church in AmericaBethany on Facebook  

Reformation Sunday 10/28/2012

Have you ever asked yourself why you’re a Lutheran?  There are other options you know but I wonder how many people really think much about it.  For a lot of us Lutheran is just what we are, it’s the tradition we grew up in; for quite a few of you, you’re not just Lutheran but Bethany is the church you grew up in, the connection here is even deeper.  There’s a few of you who married into it so that’s why you’re here and that’s why you’re Lutheran.  There’s also a few who I know have shopped around and decided this is where you want to be but I don’t know if the fact that this is a Lutheran church had much to do with it.  It might just be a group of people you felt comfortable with.   In any case, I do wonder sometimes how much Lutheran identity has to do with things these days.

I don’t know everyone’s reasons for being Lutheran but I can tell you a few of my reasons and some of them do have to do with Martin Luther.  I did grow up Lutheran so in some ways it is just who I am, but I have thought about it and I’ve thought about Luther’s role in church history.  He is a mixed bag to be sure; he said and wrote some things that we wish he hadn’t, things that caused trouble in his time, some things that others used to cause trouble later on, so he had his faults, but despite that much of his theology and many of his insights are really good.

Of course the core piece of that theology is that we are justified by God’s grace as a gift, that we can’t earn our way to God.  That is the truth revealed to us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  As St. Paul put it in what was read from Romans, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”  This truth was there all along, Luther didn’t make it up, but he did bring it front and center and it’s a truth I need because I know I’m not good enough, and it doesn’t matter how hard I try.  I know that if God’s acceptance of me is based on anything but grace, I’m in trouble, especially because most of the time I don’t put God first in my life; a lot of other things sneak in there.

All of which leads to another of Luther’s theological gems, that we are simultaneously saints and sinners.  Luther probably had a lower view of human nature than I do, total depravity he called it, which seems overly pessimistic to me, yet even with that he saw that in God’s eyes we are still saints, again because of that gift of grace.  Being made saints doesn’t free us from sin.  Whether or not we’re totally depraved as Luther said, we are still inclined to sin, but in the truth of Christ we are made free from the guilt of sin.  “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free,” as it said in today’s gospel.  I need that truth; I need to know I’m OK and this doctrine helps me to understand that, even if it doesn’t always make me free of guilt.  I think that guilt can be hard for any of us to completely get away from but still, we’re saints and it’s good to be reminded of that identity.

So those are a couple of doctrinal reasons that I’m a Lutheran, things that I think about.  But there are theological insights from other Christian traditions that I find attractive too.  Luther didn’t have the market cornered on good theology.  Listening to Dan Arnold down at the synagogue last Tuesday, there are pieces of Jewish theology I like. 

Another part of Luther’s legacy though, and another reason that I’m a Lutheran is that he questioned authority, he questioned answers that weren’t supposed to be questioned.  He didn’t passively submit to the rule and order  of the church, not because he thought he was smarter or better than those in positions of authority were, but because his reading of the Bible told him that he was right.  So part of his legacy, part of what he hands down to churches that are called Lutheran, is the permission to ask questions and the permission to open the Bible to new interpretations. 

For me those are two more big reasons I’m a Lutheran, an ELCA Lutheran in particular, but not all who claim to be Lutheran would agree with me.  Do you know how many different Lutheran church bodies there are in North America?  I came across a list that had 43; you figure just in Ishpeming besides the four ELCA churches (which is silly enough in itself) there are four other Lutheran churches that are part of other church bodies and I know that some of them would take issue with what I said about permission to ask questions and permission to interpret the Bible but I strongly believe this is part of Luther’s legacy. 

I don’t think he thought the Reformation started and ended with him.  I don’t think he thought that 500 years later we should still be reading the Bible just as he did but rather that we would use whatever additional methods of interpretation were available to us, just as he did.  As good as some of his insights were, as solid as some of his confessional statements were, I think he would expect the tradition that developed around those statements to be questioned, just as he questioned the tradition of his day.  Did the Reformation end 500 years ago or are we part of a church that is always involved in reformation?  I think you know where I come down on that.

Being part of a church that is always involved in reformation means that new things are possible and the possibility of new things is important to me too.  It’s important for me to know that all the gifts haven’t been given yet, that in and through the God of the Bible, new possibilities are made known to us.  The Jeremiah text today is very appropriate for Reformation Sunday because it’s about new possibilities and second chances.  “The days are coming when I will make a new covenant,” says the Lord.  In other words, a new covenant, a new agreement, not based on what has happened before but something new and unexpected; that’s the hope that’s always before us as people who are rooted in God’s grace and people rooted in God’s grace is who we are as Lutherans.

I could go on, but those are a few reasons I’m a Lutheran.  Maybe some of it makes sense to you too; I hope so.  If you’ve never really thought about it though, Reformation Sunday might be a good time to start.        

Rev. Warren Geier


Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor

Previous Page


Contact Us





Church Life


one such child in my name
welcomes me, and whoever
welcomes me welcomes
not me
but the
one who
sent me.”


Website designed and maintained by Superior Book Productions