by Tamara Schmerse
Part 15 of 17.
And so there I was again, sitting in between my computer, my Bibles and my Foxtel remote, with no idea of how to proceed further in my search for the Truth. I looked back over my previous few months: I had studied with Jews, and come to the conclusion that the Messiahship of Jesus of Nazareth was not negotiable. I had studied with Muslims, and decided that Mohammed had gone off on the wrong tangent.
So, Christianity it was then. But I was hurt by Evangelical Protestantism, disillusioned by “traditional” churches, and discombobulated by breakaway groups. Christianity in 2010 was a mess. But surely it could not always have been that way. I decided I needed to go back to the start, and find out what the Church was like in the beginning.
Being as I was, educated solely by Protestants, even though I knew that Jesus had been born 2000 years ago, for some reason my brain was content to believe that the Christian Church began in the Middle Ages. That was when there had been a big split from the Catholic Church, and the “true” Christians were now free to worship God the way they were supposed to, without all the corruption the Catholic Church had oppressed them with for hundreds of years. This period of time was called the Reformation. So I Googled that.
I found an awesomely catchy video on You Tube called the “95 Theses Rap”. It actually taught me a great deal and gave me more subjects to go to Wikipedia with. I learned that in 1517 a monk by the name of Martin Luther was fed up with the corruption he witnessed in the Catholic Church, and wrote out his complaints, all 95 of them, and nailed them to the church door, thereby sparking a revolution that created a new church known as the Lutheran Church. A Google Maps search revealed one of these Lutheran Churches not too far away from my house, so the following Sunday I headed for there.
Before the first service I had familiarised myself with the 95 Theses and Wiki articles on the history of Martin Luther. I felt that, if any Christian church today would have the Truth about God, surely it would be them. They did not have the corruption of the Catholic Church, the sinful foundation of the Anglican Church, the evil Westminster Confession of the Presbyterian Church, and hopefully, they would not have the apostasy of the Methodist Church. From everything I had learned over the previous two years, this seemed like the best, if not the last, option.
I had never been made to feel as welcome anywhere as I was at the Lutheran Church. From the moment I stepped out of the car I was greeted with friendly smiles and polite enquiries. They even admired my headscarf and modest dress, which was something the Methodist Church had been mocking me over, during the last few weeks of my attending services there. After my study of Islam and personal sacrifice of my vanity to God, I was determined that a scarf would be on my head whenever I worshipped in a church building, whether it was the custom of the particular church or not. And the Lutherans did not seem to mind that at all, even though I was one of only two women there who wore a head covering of any description.
The building itself was delightful – everything I had been searching for in a church. It was brick, and pointy, with the wooden pews and stained glass windows that I had craved. It even had enormous organ flutes on the walls, although I discovered that they were only for show and the organ was electric. But still, this church had an organ! I was enraptured.
I was introduced to the Pastor, Adrian, before the service, and he greeted me with the same friendliness that the parishioners had. I told him I had never been to a Lutheran service before, but that I had read a little about the Lutheran Church online. I told him briefly about my search and all the different churches I had been to. He asked if I wanted to take communion with them that day. I told him I did, if I could. He asked if I had been baptised. I said yes, but at a Baptist Church. He nodded and said that was okay. He then asked me if I believed that the bread and wine were the true body and blood of Christ.
I blinked. And then I nodded. I had heard of this concept before, usually by detracting Evangelical Protestants who taught that Communion was only symbolic. However, after everything I had learned, and learned not to learn, I figured if this Lutheran Pastor was telling me that the wine became the True Blood of Christ, and the bread became His True Flesh, then in that instant, I believed it.
And so I had my first Communion in which I believed I was actually partaking in the Flesh and Blood of the Lord. It was an incredibly reverent moment, and the reverence and respect shown on the faces of the other young people kneeling beside me gave me even more of a feeling of awe at the wonderful service I was partaking in. I felt wonderful. I felt like I had finally, at last, against all odds, found the True Church of Christ.
I was eager to go back the following week, and the week after that. I attended Bible Study with them as well. And in between services I read every piece of material I could on the history, beliefs and practises of the Lutheran Church. In keeping with my tradition, I also read criticisms of the Lutherans, most of which were written by Roman Catholics. I found nothing that shook my stance to any great degree. And Pastor Adrian was only too happy to help me with all manner of questions I fired at him.
And being that all things are accomplished in God’s perfect timing, I was lucky enough to find myself in the Lutheran Church on October 31st, the celebration of Reformation Day. I had emailed a list of questions to Pastor Adrian during the week, and he had asked me if he could use them as the basis for his Reformation Day sermon. I was only to happy to comply, and so on that Sunday, we were each given a handout on the history of the Lutheran Church, and during the next hour and a half I was given the answers to most of my historical, theological and practical questions regarding this institution.
And, even though I had not been in such a happy and peaceful environment since my Great Search began, on that day the first seeds of doubt were sown.
The first thing I noticed was the title of the first page we were given that day. It read “The Four Alones of Lutheranism.” Pastor Adrian told us that the theology of the Lutheran Church was based on Four “Alones”:
Salvation was to be obtained by Grace Alone, through Faith Alone, with Scripture Alone, in Christ Alone.
Now, I think even the youngest, most ill-educated searcher of Truth might stop in their tracks and say, now hold on, if there are four of them, well they’re not really alone then, are they?
But even brushing that aside, the water-tight vase of the Lutheran Church suddenly began to appear leaky. The traditions they held to, down to the translation of Scripture they held in highest regard, was all done by Martin Luther. While he was under house arrest in a castle in the middle of nowhere. He translated the whole Bible himself, with all of his fallible human idiosyncrasies woven right into the text. That decreased my comfort level.
I went home and watched my favourite 95 Theses Rap video again. Even though the kids who produced it were pushing Luther’s agenda, I now saw that there were gaping holes waiting to be punched in his credibility. I dug out and re-read some of the detractors’ text, including Pope Leo X’s rebuttal to the 95 Theses. When viewed with an open mind, I could kind of see the validity in some of his points.
I sighed. The Lutheran Church wasn’t my Telos either.
Part 16 will be published tomorrow.