The Question of the Week
The Questions of the Week come from young people who visit Kidspace before worship. They are tough questions. I try to answer them in words kids understand. I’ll be looking for questions again starting August 5 after my sabbatical.
Why did Martin Luther build Grace Lutheran Church?
1. He didn’t.
2. But his words did. If Martin Luther hadn’t said the words he said over 500 years ago, there would be no Grace Lutheran Church. So in a way, the young person who asked this question was right. Martin Luther did build Grace Lutheran Church.
3. Martin Luther was not trying to build or start a new church. He was trying to make the church better. But many leaders in the church didn’t agree with Martin Luther. Martin Luther was thrown out of the church.
4. So then Martin Luther and those who agreed with him did start and build new churches.
5. What was wrong with the church? Martin Luther didn’t think the church had the main message about Jesus right. The church thought people could earn their way to heaven. By giving money to the church. By going to special church services. By going on long trips to visit the bones of saints … like the bones of the Apostle Peter. By killing Muslim people. Martin Luther didn’t think people could earn their way to heaven by doing these things.
6. Martin Luther believed that Jesus lived and died while he was working on God’s plan to bring all people into God’s family. Many leaders in God’s family didn’t agree with Jesus. They thought God’s family was just fine as it was, thank you very much. They didn’t think Jesus was reading the Bible right. They didn’t want new people in God’s family. They were afraid Jesus was going to make that happen. So a few of them worked with Pontius Pilate to have Jesus killed. Pontius Pilate worked for the Roman Empire. He was a governor of the “state” where Jesus was killed. The cross was the way Romans killed people they didn’t like. On the cross, Jesus prayed that God would forgive even the people who killed him.
7. That’s how strong God’s love for all people is. That love in Jesus’ words on the cross is Good News for everyone who does anything wrong. We don’t have to earn that love. That love is already there. When people hear that Good News and believe it and trust in it and have faith and hope in God’s love, it’s a wonderful thing. If you feel terrible because you did something wrong or hurt someone and someone reminds you that God is about love and forgiveness:
· you can feel God’s love,
· you can feel healed,
· you can say “Thank you!” to God,
· you can sing God’s praises!
· you can ask God to help you be a better person,
· you can start getting to know Jesus and doing what he did.
8. A lot of the words Martin Luther said were about God’s love. You can’t earn God’s love, Martin Luther said. It’s already and always there for you to believe and trust in and to make you a better person. Through this faith you will go to heaven.
9. Christians believe they need God to become better people and to go to heaven.
10. Martin Luther believed the church needed the Good News to become a better church.
11. After Martin Luther was thrown out of the church, he didn’t want the new churches he started and built to be called Lutheran churches. He thought they should be called Good News Churches because of the Good News of God’s love. Martin Luther didn’t use the words Good News. Martin Luther was a professor, a teacher in a college or university. He used fancy words professors used 500 years ago. These words were from different languages:
· Hebrew (the language the Old Testament was written in),
· Greek (the language the New Testament was written in),
· and Latin (the language used by church leaders.)
In Greek, Good News is one word made up of two words:
· Eu … which means Good!
· Angelos … which means message. Notice how that Greek word looks like the word angel. The word angel means messenger.
When you stick these two words together in Greek you get euangelion. When you stick these two words together in German (the language Martin Luther spoke) you get evangelische. In English, this word is Evangelical. This word is actually in our church’s official name: Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church! This word is also in the name of the bigger church that Grace belongs to: the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America!
12. Have your parents take you to look at gray stone on the northwest corner of the church. It has Ev(angelical) Lutheran Grace Church carved into it. It’s called a “cornerstone.” Cornerstones are often the first stone put down when building a new building. As the very first stone, it’s a “symbol” for the most important thing. The most important thing about Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church is the Good News of God’s Love!
13. Finally, there’s great story about God’s Love and the people who actually did build Grace Lutheran Church. At one of the first Lutheran Churches in Green Bay, German words were used in worship, because the people there had all come from Germany. This is normal for people when they come from other countries to America. But parents of children came to the pastor and asked if the church could use English, because all the children were learning English in school. The parents wanted their children to understand what was being said in worship. The pastor said, “Nein!” Which in German means “No!” I guess the pastor thought children had to learn German before they could learn about the Love of God. Which was another way of saying you need to do something to earn the Good News of God’s Love. Which isn’t Good News, is it? It’s not the Good News Jesus lived and died for. It’s not the Good News Martin Luther taught about. It’s not the Good News that built Grace Lutheran Church. The Good News is that God already and always loves you. Like your mom and dad.