“Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:14)
There is an apocryphal account of Billy Graham referring to the Lutheran Church as a “Sleeping Giant.” I don’t know if he actually said this, but this story has continued to circulate because – deep down – most Lutherans know it to be true. We pride ourselves on sound doctrine and theology, but we don’t do anything with it. We have been asleep, complacent in our church, while the world desperately needs what we so blithely take for granted. The good news of Jesus Christ.
Now, it is important for us to know where our complacency comes from. The Lutheran reformation took place within Christendom and the Lutheran church grew in a Christian world. The priority was correcting error within the church. The need for correct teaching is as true today as it was when Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg. However, that is no longer enough. For you see, we no longer live in Christendom. While we have been asleep, the United States has become a pluralistic nation. Christianity is now just one religion among many. But we, as Christians holding to the orthodox teachings of Confessional Lutheranism, know that ours is not one truth among many. We know that there is only one way to salvation. We are saved by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ and apart from any works of our own. This truth cannot be kept to ourselves, it must be shared. This is why the church exists, to follow Jesus command to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
So, this is our wake-up call. It is not enough for us to preserve our correct teachings, we must take the Word of God which we have preserved and bring that Word to our neighbors. Our community needs what we have kept to ourselves for far too long. “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you” (Isaiah 60:1).
“The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” (Romans 13:11)