Brian Hiortdahl Pastor, Atonement Lutheran Church, Overland Park, Kan.

Nelson H. Rabell-González Pastor, Apostles Lutheran Church, Turnersville, N.J.


“ And.” Thanks to former Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson for amplifying this most

important Lutheran word that accommodates tension and the breadth of truth: Jesus Christ is divine and human; we are saints and sinners gifted with law and gospel. For us, this is true both individually and collectively: it has helped me see systems, families, congregations and church more clearly and completely.

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Sola scriptura. I am so grateful for and inspired by the reformers’ insistence upon

the primacy of the biblical word and Luther’s particular passion for connecting it with people’s daily lives.

Theology of the cross. Calling something what it is, while also clinging to hope in the

holy, mysterious God hidden in the horrors of human history. This is an essential guard against the temptations of easy answers, platitudes, stereotypes, dismissiveness and despair.

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“ Oh that I could pray the way this dog watches the meat!” This quote from Luther

not only resonates with my own distracted prayer life; it also showcases the humor, humanity and earthy, insightful spirituality of Luther—and the blessedness of dogs!

Grace. This is the heart, the point of it all.


The Spirit of God. I find comfort in Luther’s explanation of the third article of the Apostles’

Creed: “I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him.” The Spirit of God gives me, and the whole Christian church, the faith we need in order to follow in the footsteps of our savior.

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Absolute truth. The Reformation’s biggest lesson for me is that God’s love for humanity

is the only absolute and ultimate truth that we can trust. Any other system, person or institution that asks for this absolute trust must be viewed as penultimate and fallible.

The democratization of ministry.One of the Reformation’s fundamentals that is still vital to

my work is the understanding that all Christians are called at baptism to serve God and neighbor with their gifts, talents and treasures. In other words, the democratization of ministry.

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Preaching the law and the gospel. The dynamics of law and gospel inform the way in

which I write my sermons. When I preach the law, I try to lift up the human condition, and with the gospel, I proclaim God’s assurance of forgiveness to all, thanks to Christ’s death and resurrection.

Freedom. The Reformation has taught me that God’s last word for us is always forgiveness, life

and salvation. Luther has also taught me that we are free to think, give our opinions, debate and struggle to what we think is God’s will for the sake of creation.


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