Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Putting the Em-PHA-sis on a Different Syl-LAB-le

As I look for a church in Albuquerque one particular – and unspoken – difference stands out between the Reformed and the Lutherans. They tend to emphasize different means of grace; specifically, the reformed tend to emphasize preaching of the Word, while Lutherans tend to emphasize the Sacraments. Notice I said “tend” three times in that sentence – don’t take this too far. And let me add a hearty thanks be to God that both groups affirm the centrality of the Church in the means of grace.

One large (and beautiful) Lutheran church in Albuquerque posts their sermons on-line; the typical length – 7 minutes. But they get to be strengthened and comforted by the Lord’s Supper every week. The PCA church there also posts their sermons on-line, with a typical length of 45 minutes. But they only get communion every 6th week.

The difference in preaching between the two camps is striking. While I don’t think a 7 minute sermon is right, and I’m somewhat uncomfortable with the lack of an expository approach, when the Lutherans preach they do preach Christ and Him crucified for the forgiveness of sins as THE emphasis. From what’s emphasized in Presbyterian sermons, one may doubt whether there is a central teaching of Scripture.

If you ask a group of Lutheran pastors what Baptism did for my children, every one of them would give you a straight answer -- and the same answer. Now whether it’s the right answer is still an issue for me. But it’s clear that the reformed camp lacks any consensus on the matter.

I’ve generalized in a way that’s favorable to the Lutherans and critical of the reformed. Exceptions abound. There is much in Lutheranism that I have yet to make sense of; I still feel more comfortable with reformed doctrine.

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