Discovering Spiritual Truths & Celebrating God's Grace in the Every Day Happenings of Life.
This coming Sunday is the 504th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. You may recall the images and memes. Martin Luther standing in front of the big church doors; with a hammer in his hand ready to pound in nails to hold his theses in place for all to read. Decisively, though innocently, he was modestly hoping for an audience with the pope or authorities of the church. He did not set out to bring conflict or division; he desired only to correct some of abuses and misteachings of the church. In other words, Luther was not concerned with establishing a new Christian tradition, but with the renewal and correction of an existing tradition. He genuinely wanted the Catholic church to again understand the original and true meaning of the Gospel. At that point in time, Luther had no idea just how much he would change the world. “[Luther’s] Reformation neither transformed the church, nor was crushed by it. Instead, a de facto partition took shape. One by one, a series of German and Scandinavian cities and territories abolished the Catholic Mass, repudiated the church’s hierarchy, and required preachers to proclaim Luther’s doctrines. A new form of Christianity was starting to come into being… Like all great revolutions, it had created a new world.” (Alec Ryrie, author, Protestants) In exaggeratedly simple terms, this October 31st of 1517 essentially became the birthday of the Lutheran church. But what is the essence of the Reformation? Why is it a day that continues to be remembered?
Every night, my dog Buddy, sleeps in his dog crate. After my wife or I take him outside one last time for the evening, he goes right upstairs and into his bed. Then we close the door to the crate, lock it, and go to bed. The first thing I do when I wake up the next morning is open the crate; then Buddy and I stretch and venture down the stairs to go outside again. But what would happen if I didn’t open the crate? What would happen if, after waking up, I just went about my day and never unlocked the door? What if my wife and kids weren't there to bail him out? What would happen if I just left Buddy in there? My poor puppy! He would be in a whole lot of trouble. No matter how much he whines, whimpers, or barks that crate will not open. He can paw at the door all he wants, but it will never unlock. He can scratch at the floor or pull at the cushy bed, it will not change his plight. Buddy, whether he realizes it or not, is completely dependent on me to set him free from that crate. If not for his master, he would be trapped. He would be stuck in a metal cage with no way out—it would ultimately be a death sentence.
This may sound like a heartless, morbid illustration, but stick with me. At its core, the message of the Reformation is one of freedom found in the rediscovery of the Gospel—a gifted liberty that comes freely, as a gift, to all who believe in Jesus Christ. During the early years of Martin Luther, he was a monk tormented by his sin. He feared the wrath and punishment of God. He felt like he was trapped in some cruel, cat-and-mouse type game. The Creator had set forth rules and expectations that were impossible for any mortal to live by. Luther was so consumed with despair that he found himself regularly bitter and resentful towards God, which only made him feel worse. Stuck in an unavoidable cage of sin and guilt, he was just waiting for the wrath of God to smite him. What kind of brutal, unloving God would do this to His creation? But finally after Luther went to the scriptures, he discovered the Good News of the Gospel. He discovered the true, merciful heart of God. He wrote, “One thing, and only one thing, is necessary for Christian life, righteousness, and freedom. That one thing is the most holy Word of God, the gospel of Christ.” There is freedom for all who believe. To revisit the illustration from above; we are completely dependent on the Master to set us free and open the door that keeps us captive. This is exactly what Jesus does. No more whimpering or despair, we have been set free. Jesus has unlocked us all from the cage of sin so that we might experience the pure joy and freedom of the Gospel. He has removed the death sentence thrown into our face by the devil. The guilty verdict has been removed; the restrictive crate walls have fallen. This is the wonderful exchange which has taken place wherein “our sins are no longer ours but Christ’s and the righteousness of Christ is not His but ours.” This was the driving force of Luther’s efforts. The desire to share this good news was the heart and soul of the Protestant Reformation and what our Lutheran heritage is built on. It is all and always about Jesus!
So put on your traditional Reformation red and come join us in worship this Sunday.
We will proudly sing “A Mighty Fortress” and “Thy Strong Word.”
We will read together Psalm 46.
We will hear the scriptures that brought the light of the Gospel back into the dark hearts of Luther and many others.
But most importantly, we will remember and rejoice in the freedom we have in Jesus!
“We believe that the very beginning and end of salvation, and the sum of Christianity, consists of faith in Christ, who by His blood alone, and not by any works of ours, has put away sin, and destroyed the power of death.” (Martin Luther)
“When Satan tells me I am a sinner he comforts me immeasurably since Christ died for sinners.” (Martin Luther)
“The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.” (Martin Luther, thesis 62)