As I write this, it is the Commemoration of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession, the foundational Lutheran confession. Four hundred ninety years ago, Philip Melanchthon and his fellow Lutherans presented the twenty-eight Articles. George, Margrave of Brandenburg, and one of the signers of the Augustana, declared, “Before I let anyone take from me the Word of God and ask me to deny my God, I will kneel and let them strike off my head.” All the Lutheran princes, rulers, and theologians were in concord on this. “At Augsburg, the Lutherans confessed the truth of the Gospel in the face of a very real threat to their possessions and lives” (Pr. Mark Surburg, “Surburg’s Blog,” June 25, 2020).
I can’t help but think of a parallel in America’s history. “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” That’s the last sentence of the Declaration of Independence of the United States. The signers of both of these documents pledged their lives and fortunes, and some would end up giving up either one or both. They faced stiff odds, a steep uphill climb, to secure liberty: at Augsburg, the liberty of the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ, salva-tion given by God freely for all; at Philadelphia, the liberty of a nation of free citizens with rights given by God. The adherents to these causes seemed so few against such mighty, formi-dable, well established foes, the greatest forces on earth at those times.
Are these two causes exactly alike? No; yet we cannot deny the parallels. Much of this nation’s early history and founding was for the purpose of the “First Freedom” as given in the First Amendment of the Constitution, the freedom of religion. Lutherans have been part of that enterprise from the beginning.
Right now, there looms a threat to both in this land. Not content to tear down certain statues, some now have set their sights on Jesus—not just artworks, but Christ Himself. (The fools.) No wonder, for He has always known the program of their father: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10). Nothing is safe from the rage of “the pedestal makers” who tear down with no intent to build anew. The empty pedestals are their memorials. They would erase history, and His Story. This is but the latest front in what is, in truth, “the long war against God.” God made, by His Word and Spirit, and He made all things good. The destroyers have long been at work destroying language—not the natural development of language over time, but a deliberate program of “deconstruction.” They also seek to destroy the human spirit, the part of us for which the Spirit yearns and which yearns for Him. They preach a false ‘spirituality’ of only guilt, never absolution. Against this hellish word we must speak, and against this hellish work we must stand and fight.
This morning I sang the Reformation hymn, “Zion Mourns in Fear and Anguish” (TLH 268), by Johann Heermann. His ministry was interrupted many times during the Thirty Years’ War. In stanza 4 of “Zion Mourns,” he puts this exhortation and promise from God:
Let not Satan make thee craven; He can threaten but not harm. On My hands thy name is graven, And thy shield is My strong arm.
Glory be to the God whose Strong Right Arm is for us,