By Walter Burden
At a recent youth event, my children each invited a friend or two to play goofy games and enjoy a barbeque dinner. While we were finishing dinner, my daughter asked “Dad, what’s the difference between being Lutheran and Catholic?” Since most of my children’s friends are Catholic and I was raised Catholic as well, the question should have been a slam dunk for me to answer. My first thought was that this is a more complicated answer for a conversation with a 6th grader than I had bargained for! After all, my main job for the evening was to distribute water balloons, referee dodgeball games, play “Protect the President” among other games and lead a short devotion.
My initial reaction was to use a trusty parental delay tactic to think of the correct answer, but that gave to my daughter’s look of “really Dad?” So I said “A main difference is that although Lutherans honor the Virgin Mary and the saints, we do not pray to them as intercessors, we pray to Jesus as our one true intercessor. There are other differences, but there are a lot more similarities than differences as we are both Christians. Martin Luther was originally a Catholic Priest that felt the church strayed from the basics of a God centered faith, to man-made laws and customs, so he decided to do something about it.”
Mission accomplished. I was able to think on my feet and give my daughter and her friend a simple answer. I also told them that there was more, but this was enough for now and more importantly, it was time for dessert! I jest, but it got me thinking about what sets us as Lutherans apart. Through the years and with my involvement leading youth, I have dealt with many difficult issues and questions. This one was much easier than most, but I felt the need to be thoughtful and brief at the moment.
As Lutherans we like to eat pot luck dinners, sing a little louder, study the Bible, and avoid the ornate in our sanctuaries. Even though Lutherans set themselves apart starting from the moment that Martin Luther originally nailed the 95 Theses on the church door at Wittenberg, we also believe that we are connected to all Christians as brothers and sisters in Christ. Saved by Grace, through Faith- not our good works. That is what being Lutheran is all about.