Tuesday, February 28, 2012

February 28, 2012

Do you have Protestant heritage in your family? Consider this. It took great courage for those first “reformers” to do as they did, to swim against the current. In the first decades of the Protestant Reformation there were a thousand little acts of defiance, taking chances, standing firm in the faith, that could have ended disastrously. Yet the Spirit prevailed. One such breath-holding moment was the Diet of Augsburg on the 25th of June, 1530. Imagine the scene. The situation was critical. Protestantism was very new, struggling to hold on against the tide of tradition. Many of the princes of Germany (which was not the country we know now, but part of the Holy Roman Empire) had embraced Martin Luther’s vision of a new reformed church. They desired to offer a confession of faith that would clearly lay out exactly what they believed.

They were against the majority of the world, but they never flinched. They set forth their Augsburg Confession with confidence that was perhaps shown more than felt, knowing full well that the world would view such an act as heresy and dissention. The Augsburg Confession clearly outlined the Lutheran faith system (compatible in many places with the “Reformation faiths” of Calvinism and Anabaptism) and set down the basics: These new “Protestants” did indeed believe in the Holy Trinity, Christ’s identity as the Son of God, original sin, the virgin birth, and ministerial orders, but unlike the Catholic tenets of the day, they rejected the necessity of works for salvation, saying that a true Christian should desire to do good works as “fruit of the spirit.” The Augsburg Confession also laid down the idea of justification by faith, which became a timeless battle cry of the Protestant Reformation.

Time stopped. This very new faith might be crushed in its infancy. Who could tell? Few had any idea of the future bloodshed that would come about for the simple reason of uttering these words. But still, the princes and electors of Germany set forth their Confession. The world did a double take. What were these dissenters up to, anyway? (The term “Protestant” didn’t come into practice until about 1539, when German Lutherans “protested” their lack of rights in an edict that favored Catholicism). The authors of the Confession stood firm. As a result, we Lutherans still follow the terms put forth in the Augsburg Confession, which is part of the Lutheran sacred literature known as the Book of Concord.

I can just imagine those dignified gentlemen in their long scholarly robes, perspiring wildly as they waited to see if the articles of their new faith would be accepted. And Martin Luther himself, forced into hiding after gaining status as an outlaw, must have suffered through countless scenarios in his mind. Just before the Augsburg Confession was finished, he had read over it and had said “it pleases me right well, and I know not how to better or alter anything in it, and will not hazard the attempt; for I cannot tread so softly and gently.”

The Diet of Augsburg, 1530
The wars of religion were just over the horizon. England had a few years to go until the break with Rome. John Calvin had not yet begun to set forth the tenets of Calvinism. France had not yet become home to vast numbers of Huguenots, French Calvinist Protestants.  Europe --- and the world --- held its breath. And although they must have had an inkling of the bloodshed that would dog the Reformation, these German princes and electors and practitioners of the newfound “Lutheran” faith stood firm.

These men dared to be different. They gave me the chance to be different. Today I’m going to live my faith boldly. I will remember those men who prayed so faithfully; the echoes of their prayers changed the history of the world. As Martin Luther would say, “All who call on God in true faith, earnestly from the heart, will certainly be heard, and will receive what they have asked and desired, although not in the hour or in the measure, or the very thing which they ask. Yet they will obtain something greater and more glorious than they had dared to ask.”

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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