Another great post by Pastor Paul Beisel over on LutheranPastor.wordpress.com.
If you want to understand me…
…just read the Book of Concord. Seriously. Get hold of a copy of Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions from Concordia Publishing House or come and borrow one of mine, or go to bookofconcord.org and just start reading. Read the Augsburg Confession and its Apology. Read Luther’s Large Catechism and Smalcald Articles. Read these things, and I guarantee you will better understand why I talk the way I do, why I write the way I do, why I conduct services the way I do, why I do not get into the “emergent church movement,” or any other movement for that matter, why I love to chant, wear vestments, and do many other things that you might not be used to seeing, why I am not like other Protestant or Evangelical pastors that chuck the historic liturgy, its songs, and its ceremonies in favor of pop Christian music, or music that sounds sweet but has no Lutheran substance.
You will better understand why my sermons are not just a string of nice stories but actually teach the faith, why I prefer hymns that are dripping with the blood of Jesus over hymns that “just praise Him,” why I want to offer the Lord’s Supper every week, why I occasionally celebrate “Saints’ days,” and why I believe that closed Communion is the most faithful and loving practice.
The Book of Concord was largely responsible for making me the Lutheran I am today, the preacher I am today, the Christian I am today. I began reading it for the first time in college, and continually refer to it as a pastor for refreshment in Christian doctrine and pastoral practice. There are other books you could read, like C.F.W. Walther’s “Law and Gospel,” or Harold Senkbeil’s “Dying to Live: the Power of Forgiveness.” You could read Martin Chemnitz’ “Ministry, Word, and Sacraments: An Enchiridion,” or “Quest for Holiness” by Adolf Koeberle. You could read Paul H. D. Lang’s “Ceremony and Celebration,” etc. But if you really want to get to the heart of the matter, read the Lutheran Confessions. These were and are the documents that define what it is to be Lutheran in doctrine and practice, which is to say, what it is to be all about Jesus, the Gospel, and the Holy Scriptures. These were meant to be read not only by pastors, but by all Christians.
I would also venture to say that one of the reasons that our churches (and sadly, some pastors) have bought into something that is not truly Lutheran is because these Confessions have not been read, studied, and enjoyed as they ought. You will find snippets of them in the Synod’s Catechism, mostly from the Large Catechism of Martin Luther, but there is so much more. It doesn’t take a skilled theologian to wade through these writings. Some of them are more difficult, and require a bit of historical knowledge to fully understand. But mostly they are accessible to anyone who can read, and look up Bible passages.
As to the frequent complaint, “I thought Lutherans were supposed to be all about the Bible,” the Confessions address that too. How frequently do they point and direct us to the “clear and pure fountain of Israel,” the Holy Scriptures, as the final authority on all doctrinal matters. Every statement that is made in the Book of Concord is supported by a reference to the Scriptures. Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) does not mean that we cannot read and learn from other books. It is not “Nuda Scriptura,” (the naked Scriptures), but Scripture properly interpreted. Any bloat can get a Bible, but even the Ethiopian needed Philip to interpret the words of Isaiah for him.
Read it. I dare you.