No, I'm not talking about the way that some mothers speak of their unborn children. I'm talking of the way that other Christians sometimes speak of the Lutheran Church:
"You do not have the right to exist."
This is in essence the message which is sent back to us by Lutherans who have swum the Tiber or the Bosphorus. It is the message received from our sisters and brothers in the various Reformed Churches at times too - who are aggravated that we cannot deny the Scriptural Confession of the Supper long enough to welcome them with open arms.
DOES the Lutheran Church have a right to exist? Truthfully, no. She has no such right.
IF she exists, she exists solely by the grace of God, who raises her up as a witness to His Son's free salvation - a salvation richly given in Baptism, the preaching of the Word, the Holy Absolution, and the Most Holy Eucharist. She doesn't have a right to exist, but by the grace of God she persists nonetheless BECAUSE of the power of God which is at work in His means of grace. She remains a Church unable to hide her warts and blemishes behind the smoke of incense or the supposed sanctity of her clerics. A Church full of the sinfulness of men that nevertheless fails to overcome the compassion of a forgiving God, who manifests His undying love for the world in the gift of His Son and His Holy Spirit.
Would the world be the poorer for her disappearance? Yes, I believe so. Immeasureably. But that's no cause for pride on the part of those who live within her. For us, it's enough that the grace of God is made perfect in weakness, that the folly of God is wiser than the smarts of man and that the weakness of God is stronger than the strength of man. We have one hope, one boast: Christ crucified for us and for all. In Him alone, we are privileged to shout to the world and to the church, there is hope, there is life, there is salvation.
Just as the world told him: "You have no right to exist," so it tells us. We shouldn't be surprised. We should instead delight to live through and with Him a life that this world and no one in it can destroy or ever take away.
Glory to You, Lord Jesus Christ! Glory to You alone! Keep us faithful to You that we may give all glory to God and all comfort to poor sinners. Use as a witness to your whole people - we who are so weak, sinful, and afraid. Amen