Lutheran Leprechauns

By Scott Keith

I wasn’t much for fairy tales when I was a wee lad, but I always did enjoy a good leprechaun story. Maybe it is because I’m part Irish (I think), or maybe it was that ever-elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that drew me in. You see, a Leprechaun is a type of fairy in Irish folklore. Leprechauns are said to be smaller-statured (though often quite muscular) men who almost always sport an impressive red beard, are snappy dressers, and love to partake in creating a little mischief (Sound like anyone else you know?). They are solitary creatures who spend their time making and mending shoes (I love a love a nice pair of shoes) and have a hidden pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

A couple weeks ago, when I was working the 1517 the Legacy Project booth at the NACC (North American Christian Convention) conference in Anaheim, I realized that Lutherans (particularly of the LCMS variety) are kind of like Leprechauns. What do I mean? I mean that of the thousands of Christians (20,000, I think) at this conference, Joy and I were, as far as I could tell, the only Lutherans in attendance.

Every time we would talk to someone, we would necessarily spend the first ten minutes explaining what a Lutheran was. Now, this may be good, or it may be bad. I am not attempting to judge our collective lack of exposure in the Evangelical world. I am trying to communicate to the Jagged Mafia that, if you read this and are Lutheran, to the greater Christian world, you are a somewhat like a leprechaun.

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What do I mean? Well, to begin with, I mean that if an Evangelical has heard of a Lutheran, chances are, they have probably never met one. Further, when I explain our theology to my new Evangelical friends, they look at me like I’ve been hiding a pot of gold from them somewhere behind a mythical perfect rainbow that I’ve now identified as Lutheranism. I mean that we Lutherans, like leprechauns, are a bit reclusive––focusing on our work (again, I like a nice pair of shoes, and I like good theology even more) and not often wandering beyond our circles.

Again, this is not necessarily right or wrong. We have solid historical reasons for our isolationism, even if most Lutherans can’t remember or aren’t aware of those reasons. But these experiences have caused me to reconsider my approach to the pot of gold that is Lutheran theology.

How do I write? How do I speak? When communicating to the world as a whole, do I regularly use “in-house” words that only Lutherans will understand when more commonly understood terminology would work just as well? I am not arguing for church growth here, nor am I arguing for a watered-down version of Lutheran theology. I desire for the Church to be faithful and her theology to 120 proof, especially when that theology is being proclaimed to the world, which is in such great need of Christ crucified.

But if our theology is so incredible, and I think it is, why do more people know about the Leprechaun’s pot of gold than Lutheran theology? Leprechaun tales are fairy tales; the theology of the cross is a matter of life and death! God’s promise was hidden behind a rainbow long ago (Calm down, all you nitpickers. I get that the rainbow is still one of God’s promises). Now, His promise is revealed in Christ, and Christ is so much more valuable that a pot of gold.

Gold, like all other things, will perish. The hope and salvation that is given to sinners on account of Christ alone is the only treasure which will last forever. Let’s not hide it any longer!

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4 thoughts on “Lutheran Leprechauns

  1. It does seem to me that Lutherans have hoarded the pot of gold for a very long time and that it’s time to share the wealth…and, if they don’t do it willingly, their pot will be stolen from them and shared in spite of them.

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  2. I think a lot of it has to do with the way Evangelicals respond when they hear Lutheran theology or attend a Lutheran church. I came to the Lutheran tradition almost exclusively because of the proper distinction between Law and Gospel and the solid and consistent emphasis on justification (thank you, Rod Rosenbladt), rather than being beaten over the head with sanctification, and why I’m not doing it enough (ala John MacArthur).

    I have been interacting with my wife’s family some over the past few months. Her sister came to our church and said, “what are you, Catholic!?” They don’t have much of a historical framework for their theology, and they think that the way Evangelicals “do” church is THE biblical model. Never mind 2,000 years of church history.

    They can tolerate the Reformed as being a little “goofy” when they baptize babies, but any talk of the Real Presence or baptismal regeneration, and you’re a Catholic in their minds. More Fundamentalist leaning Evangelicals do not consider Roman Catholics to be Christians. Roman Catholic is a byword in those circles, so they can easily dismiss anything different as “too Roman Catholic.”

    In my limited experience (I’ve been a Confessional Lutheran for about 5 months now and I only finished the Book of Concord around the end of June), most Evangelicals aren’t even willing to give us a hearing.

    Personally, I find it difficult not to get hurt when Evangelicals react that way. I want to hit my head against the wall when they make statements about how being “Reformed” means rejecting infant baptism, or say that Lutherans believe in justification by ritual. It’s hard for me to patiently love them and keep trying to reach out to them and engage with them. My experience is that their posture towards Lutheranism is generally hostile and they’re not even willing to learn what we actually believe.

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