Lutheran Piety, Pietism, and Walking With God

Devotional Thoughts of the Day:

18  When the people heard the thunder and the trumpet blast and saw the lightning and the smoking mountain, they trembled with fear and stood a long way off. 19  They said to Moses, “If you speak to us, we will listen; but we are afraid that if God speaks to us, we will die.” Exodus 20:18-19 (TEV)

“I am learning that (some) Lutherans know how to talk things but not necessarily walk the talk. Putting things they know into practice makes them “pietists” because good things just pop out of you from thin air. Saying part of my piety – how I practice my faith – I learned from my parents because they took me to church as a child makes me a pietist.”  ( a friend’s post on Facebook)

i have a friend whose recent encounters with those who identify themselves as Lutherans.   The result of such interactions led to the post in blue above, and it seems it is becoming more vocal, more frequent, at least in social media.

I’ve even heard it in a meeting or two, where somethings are looked down upon because they are two mystical.  Sometimes this is meditating on a passage, or spending time thinking deeply about the Lord’s Supper or Baptism.  Heck, I’ve even heard it spoken in regards to the sacraments themselves, as pastors who encourage regular confession and absolution, or weekly (or even more frequent) celebration of the Lord’s Supper, are held in derision.  Too pietistic, to holier-than-thou, too mystical for real Christians.

There is something about these accusations that doesn’t ring true, either Biblically or Doctrinally. It seems almost defensive, as if they were willing to take the promises of being justified by faith, but not desiring the sanctification that occurs as part of God delivering us.

The attitudes appears to be that some prefer that academic theology reign supreme, winning theological arguments is considered a great investment of time.  Using liturgical orders, nice and clean is advisable, or even “loving” one’s hymnal is fine, but talking about seeing people realize they are in the presence of God is not faithful or confessional.  These who would criticise any trying to live in accord with their baptism seem to be afraid to encounter God.  Willing to hold off, realizing that they are in Christ, for the evidence of such, they dislike intensely.  And if appearances are correct, these people are somewhat like the bunch that gather around Moses.

Tell us, they say, and we will listen.

They won’t, we don’t, we can’t.

We know this, we preach it.

Just let us do DS3 and all will be right. Give us the ability to quote Forde, or Gerhard or Preus and all will be well.  But encountering Jesus?

It is as if they were the apostles of John, who knew of God’s love… but don’t understand the Holy Spirit.

What changes us is what some Lutherans call incarnational theology, That Jesus came and dwells among us.  Not just the scripture, He does.  That we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, that where we stand is as holy and set apart as Mt Sinai.  That our baptism is truly uniting with Jesus, in His death and in His resurrection (back to Romans 6), that we are the masterpiece of God (Eph 2:10) that Jesus didn’t just save us from death and sin and satan, but He delivers us to the Father, and we walk with God.

Knowing this make those pietistic actions transform into piety, ways we walk with God.  They make these things sacramental, and holy.  They remind us that as we do these things God has ordained for us to do, we encounter Him in every step, in every breath. We encounter the mystery of God, and yeah – we can’t always explain it.

We just live, in Christ Jesus.

This is why we talk of following Christ, Abiding in Him, that to live is Christ.

Not something to fear, not a terrifying encounter… just being with Him.

This is what brought Luther great peace.  This is why he called God His Fortress, His Sanctuary.


About justifiedandsinner

I am a pastor of a Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos, California, where we rejoice in God's saving us from our sin, and the unrighteousness of the world. It is all about His work, the gift of salvation given to all who trust in Jesus Christ, and what He has done that is revealed in Scripture. God deserves all the glory, honor and praise, for He has rescued and redeemed His people.

Posted on October 23, 2014, in Devotions and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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