From the Vicar,
‘Spirituality’ is a popular term in our world today. It seems as if people are searching for this elusive sense of the spiritual in their lives, most often a spirituality that is divorced from organized religion, much less the Christian Church. Within the Church, too, people are searching for ‘spirituality,’ and the shelves of Christian book stores are filled with hundreds of titles that promise just that. The popularity of books such as The Purpose Driven Life or The Prayer of Jabez indicate that people are drawn to those who seem to have all the answers, and even Lutherans are drawn into the focus on self that we find between the covers. A true Christian spirituality does not focus on us or what we do, but instead focuses on Christ and what He has done for us.
In distinction and contrast with all the books we find on ‘spirituality’ in the local bookstore, there are several Lutheran authors who have written short and easy to read books on the faith. Several times during this coming year, I will review these books and recommend them to you for your own reading. It is my prayer that these authors can help you to understand Christianity and Lutheranism as focused solely on our Savior, and not on self. This month, I would like to speak about a book by Rev. Daniel Preus, entitled Why I am a Lutheran: Jesus at the Center.
Rev. Preus intends within the pages of his book to demonstrate how Jesus is at the center of all that is Christian. He does not set out to describe the Lutheran faith, and he recommends Luther’s Small Catechism for that task (more on that handbook of Christian ‘spirituality’ next month). It is his hope that in starting with Christ, it will become apparent that he and many others are Lutheran quite simply because no other confession places Christ so firmly at the center. The primary metaphor that Rev. Preus uses to demonstrate this is three mountains. The first is Mt. Sinai, where the Law was given, the Law that accuses and condemns us. The second and most important mountain is Mt. Calvary, where Christ shed His blood for us. This mountain is where we can meet God and live. The final mountain is Mt. Zion, or the Church, where we join with all who have gone before us in fellowship with God. Within his discussions of these three mountains, Rev. Preus describes the faith, from justification and the Sacraments to worship. Especially important to his assertion that Christ is at the center is the concept that we can only reach Mt. Zion through Mt. Calvary. Any attempt to reach Mt. Zion on our own only results in our being placed once again at the foot of Mt. Sinai, facing God’s wrath alone. This is where popular Christian ‘spirituality’ goes wrong. When we focus on our own efforts to please God, we have returned to Mt. Sinai by ourselves. The good news is that Christ has faced God’s wrath for us by going to the cross on Mt. Calvary.
Rev. Preus writes in a very engaging style, using stories from his childhood and his time as a pastor to illustrate his topics. In addition, he challenges his readers by teaching theological terms and quoting from Lutheran theologians. The use of hymnody provides a connection to the worship of the Church, as we sing what we believe (more on that in another newsletter). It is appropriate for those of High School age on up, though I would not hesitate having Middle School children start working through it. I have several copies in my office, if anyone is interested in taking a look, or you can contact Concordia Publishing House to purchase your own. Christ truly is at the center of all that we believe and confess as Christians, and through this wonderful book Rev. Preus has reemphasized this fact for us all. God’s blessings!