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Concerning Human Traditions in the Church – part 26
Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions

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Matthew 6:9–13

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning Human Traditions in the Church 

But we cheerfully maintain the old traditions that were established in the Church for the sake of usefulness and tranquility. We interpret them in a more moderate way that excludes the opinion which holds that they justify. Yet our enemies falsely accuse us of abolishing good ordinances and church discipline. For we can truly declare that the liturgy in our churches is more becoming than with the adversaries. And if anyone will consider it properly, we conform to the canons more truly than do the adversaries.

Pulling It Together: Lucy was a sweet, Southern lady. Even suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, she was a very dear sister in Christ whom I liked to visit in the care facility where she had to live with others suffering from the same or similar conditions. At first, because I was wearing a clerical collar, she knew I was her pastor but she could not remember my name or the name of the church that she had attended for decades. Eventually, she did not even recognize me as her pastor. Whenever I asked if her daughter had been by to see her, she always said, “no,” or, “about a week ago,” even though her daughter visited every day. She just could not remember things anymore—her short-term memory being especially affected.

Toward the end of my pastorate in her church, I visited Lucy on a day when she seemed a little upset about something that she could not put into words. It might have been some fleeting memory that she could not quite recall, or perhaps the other patients were distressing her. At the end of my visit, I asked her if she would like me to pray. She always did, so politely smiled and said, “Yes, please.” As I quickly considered what to pray, I thought, “The Lord’s Prayer might be a comfort to her.” And so I began, “Our Father…”

Then Lucy joined me, softly saying, “who art in heaven,” and praying all the way to the “Amen.” Things changed during that time of prayer—for Lucy and for me. She was calmed and I felt better for her. As I drove away from the nursing home, I pondered what had happened. Of all the things and all the people she had forgotten, she remembered the prayer that Jesus taught us, the prayer that is part of the liturgy of her church. This public ritual, the “Our Father,” that Lucy participated in thousands of times did not reconcile God or merit the forgiveness of sins for her. But it did remind her of God’s presence and providence. Even when she seemed to have forgotten everything else, it was very clear that she had not forgotten God. 

Nor had he forgotten her.  

Prayer: Lord, teach me to pray. Amen.

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A Latin phrase meaning “Scripture Alone,” Sola Scriptura is one of the traditional Lutheran slogans used since the time of the Reformation. It expresses our confession that Scripture is “the only rule and norm according to which all doctrines and teachers alike must be appraised and judged.” Using the familiar phrase as its title, Sola Scriptura is a new, advanced-level Bible Study in a two-part series, of six chapters each, on the functional authority of Scripture. For those who would like to cover the topic in detail, there is enough material to cover one chapter in two sessions, making each part a 12-week study.

• Leader's Guide   • See also: Sola Scriptura, Part 2: The Norm of Faith

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