Questions from Readers

I received two e-mail messages yesterday. Excerpts follow. Chris writes:

Dave, I came across your blog One Little Word as I was searching for some commentary or explanation about what the little word is that Luther had in mind in the hymn. I figure it must be Christ himself, the Word who became flesh. Especially since the next stanza begins with "That Word, above all earthly powers..." which reminds me of Col 2:15. Anyway, if you can direct me to anything you, or others, may have written about this or have any thoughts on it, I would really appreciate your time. Thanks, Chris

My response:

Hi Chris, Thanks for stopping by the blog. You may have noticed that I posted some remarks about Christ as Word on the "About One Little Word" page, which is accessible from the right column on my blog, or at http://onelittleword.org/?page_id=2. Luther wrote extensively about the word of God, and had a great confidence in its power. My personal favorite refers to his close friends Philip Melanchthon and Nicholas Von Amsdorf: “All that I have done is to farther, preach and teach God’s Word; otherwise I have done nothing. So it happened that while I slept or while I drank a glass of Wittenberg beer with my friend Philip [Melanchthon] and with Amsdorf, the papacy was weakened as it never was before by the action of any prince or emperor. I have done nothing; the Word has done and accomplished everything.… I let the Word do its work!” (from a sermon on March 10, 1522, in "Luther's works, vol. 44: The Christian in Society") We Lutherans continue to put great stock in the power of God's word. We think of it in three ways: the living word (Christ), the written word (Scriptures), and the spoken word (preaching and teaching). I would suspect that Luther had all three of these in mind when he wrote "Mighty Fortress." I'd encourage you to take a first-hand look at Luther. A helpful volume is "Martin Luther's Basic Theological Writings" edited by Tim Lull. It contains excerpts from some of his more important writings (like "The Bondage of the Will" and "The Freedom of a Christian"). There isn't one particular essay here that deals with the power of God's word, but you'll find Luther's understanding of it throughout the book. Good reading! Peace, Pastor Dave

Thomas writes:

Hello Pastor Risendal, I was wondering what were the differences between Calvinism and Lutheranism. I recall that you said that the differences were minimal. One, or perhaps, several of my friends attend your church on Sundays, and I recently talked to one of them, but it appears that we differ on what I consider big ideas in Christianity, namely spreading God's word to not just people outside of Colorado, but also to people within in our own communities and schools and the afterlife and the radiance of God. I was also wondering what the finer points of Lutheran theology are. Though, I am still struggling with understanding my own theological beliefs, I think it is necessary to learn more about our Savior. Thank you for reading this email, and I hope God continues to bless you and your church. From, Thomas

My response:

Hi Thomas --  My understanding is that both Luther and Calvin had a strong desire to renew and deepen the faith of people in their own communities (those who called themselves Christians, and those who didn't yet know Christ). I think within Lutheran circles (including within my own church) and within Reformed circles, you will find many people who share that same commitment, and many people who have other priorities. I am one who shares that commitment. I believe that the church of our day has more in common with the first century church than has been the case for many generations. The primary mission field in this world is in our back yard. There are many people in my own neighborhood who don't have a living, growing relationship with Jesus Christ -- and a primary responsibility of mine is to reach out to them (as well as to equip the people of my church to reach out in their own neighborhoods). You obviously know someone in my church who is still growing towards that same commitment. God willing, we'll help them get there <g>. For a primer on the Lutheran perspective on Christianity, take a visit to our denomination's web site (www.elca.org). There is an extensive section on what we believe (www.elca.org/What-We-Believe.aspx), and I think you'll find that useful.  I'd also suggest that you spend time with your Bible. Lutherans believe in the power of God's word, and most of us would be more inclined to turn towards the Scriptures than towards anything current church leaders (including myself) have composed. Start with the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). Study Paul's writings (Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians). Lutherans believe that the Scriptures are the "source and norm" of all that we believe, so anything we might have written is still subject to what is taught in the Bible. Blessings to you, Thomas, as you continue to stretch your understanding of our God and our faith. Let me know if I can help. Peace, Pastor Dave