The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Luther, Lutherans and Pentecost

How do we live as Christians in the world today?

"They may be fine Easter preachers, but they are very poor Pentecost preachers, for they do not preach about sanctification and being made alive by the Holy Spirit." Martin Luther wrote these words in 1539 to respond to the challenge of people who called themselves Christian, but whose lives did not reflect the gift of God's grace.

I write these words in Wittenberg, Germany, where I am part of an international seminar sponsored by the Lutheran World Federation. The participants are Lutheran pastors from Colombia, Congo, Estonia, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Romania, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia. With the exception of Germany, no two of us come from the same country.

Engraving by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld
Engraving by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (March 26, 1794 - May 24, 1872), published in Die Bibel in Bildern (The Bible in Pictures, 1860).

Our theme is "Reading the Bible with Luther Today." Although our contexts are different, we wrestle with the same challenge Luther faced in 1539: What does it mean not only to call ourselves Christian but to live as Christians in the world today? How do we witness to the gospel not only with our words but also with our actions?

Each morning when we gather for devotions here in Wittenberg, we pray the Lord's Prayer — together, but in our own languages. Each morning we experience a little Pentecost. Luther's words in the Small Catechism continue to come true in our midst: the Spirit "calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth" on Pentecost and every day.


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