Today is Reformation Day in the Lutheran churches and I would just like to take this opportunity to thank Martin Luther for making me Orthodox. I grew up in the 60’s when the Lutheran Church was conservative and traditional. We still had felt Jesus banners in the church, but you didn’t find women or sexually confused or theologically heretical clergyman, or for that matter, sexually confused, theologically heretical women. You knew just where German pastors were coming from. And they were the ones who shaped my beliefs and future life as an Orthodox Christian. I am what the Lutheran Church first made me:
- I’m Catholic but not Roman. Luther is famously portrayed as a man who did not want to destroy the Roman Catholic Church but to reform it. He seems to have started out that way, though later on as things started to snowball, he sure ‘nuf took to the idea pretty darn well. Be that as it may, this idea struck very close with me. Why wasn’t I Roman Catholic if Luther only wanted to straighten things up? If the Roman Catholic Church was worth saving, why wasn’t it good enough for me now? So I began to explore the Catholic Church, but quickly found that Martin Luther had already primed the anti-papacy pump. I can buy first among equals, but not The Big Cheese.
- I’m sacramental. Luther tossed most of the sacraments, figuring only two (or maybe three if you count reconciliation) – Baptism and the Lord’s Supper – were sufficiently biblical to remain. The practice of those two, particularly Communion, was all I needed to see that something special was going on between God and me. Communion rightly had a prominent place and at my first Communion class I was taught the Lutheran layer cake view of the Eucharist – bread and under that, Body; wine and ditto, Blood. I was sufficiently impressed that the Body and Blood were sacred or at least sacred enough until the wine was unceremoniously dumped down a holy disposal sink. Down the drain with our Lord’s Blood, but it wasn’t always Jesus’ Blood, only at the time of communion… Very confusing. Jesus was just kind of sitting under the elements – take ’em out of context and Jesus wasn’t there anymore.
- I’m liturgical. Worship has an order and a flow to it and that’s just the way it is. As a German I can perfectly understand the need for doing things just so. Luther thought so too.
- I’m traditional. Given that my religious education started only at the year 1517, I still acquired an “older is better” mindset. At the time of my catechism, I guess I just never thought too much about the 1500 years before that. It was all Roman Catholic to me. First there was Jesus, then the Roman Catholics, then Luther. It was only later I realized Luther hadn’t been too straight with me about the timeline.
- I’m symbolic. Thanks Luther for the Holy Pine Tree and it’s sacred symbols. I can remember a big, whopping Christmas tree in the sanctuary of Christ the King Lutheran Church covered in white lights and shiny, white, glittery Christian symbols. Doves, Chi Ro’s, fish, Alpha and Omegas, Lambs with a Cross. It’s only one small step from accepting churchy symbols to accepting the greatest visual symbols the Church has ever produced – Holy Icons. Now I won’t say I didn’t have some initial trouble kissing them, but it’s just like kissing that first boy when you’re thirteen; do it enough and you warm up to the idea.
So Happy Reformation Day today and this coming Reformation Sunday. Sing a good rousing chorus of “A Mighty Fortress is our God” for me. I have much to appreciate where I came from and the foundation it planted in me. Thanks Martin Luther for putting me on the path to Orthodoxy. I wouldn’t be here without you.