Does the Lutheran Church have a birthday? I say it does, and it was yesterday. But it's not too late to celebrate!
You have probably heard that we are marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. This is based on October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther posted his Ninety-five Theses. The date may be used to mark the beginning of the Reformation, but cannot really be used as the birthday of the Lutheran Church.
A much better date for that is June 25, 1530, the day the Augsburg Confession was presented to Emperor Charles V. To this day, the Augsburg Confession ranks as the number-one Lutheran statement. A person could read it (in about two hours) and have a very good idea about the Lutheran Church. It contains twenty-eight articles, and the fourth one is this:
"Our churches teach that people cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works. People are freely justified for Christ's sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor and that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake. By His death, Christ made satisfaction for our sins. God counts this faith for righteousness in His sight (Rom. 3:21-26; 4:5)."
In my sermon yesterday, I said that these words are tattooed on my heart. But more correctly, they are tattooed on the heart of the Lutheran Church. In fact, never mind the tattoo. These words are the heart and soul of the Lutheran Church!
And for that reason, June 25 should be considered the birthday of the Lutheran Church. Interestingly, it comes six months after, and six months before, we celebrate the birth of our Lord.
Happy Birthday, Lutheran Church! I won't sing "Happy Birthday." No, I think this song is far better:
"Salvation unto us has come
By God's free grace and favor;
Good works cannot avert our doom,
They help and save us never.
Faith looks to Jesus Christ alone,
Who did for all the world atone;
He is our one Redeemer."