Romans 3:21 But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
Likely every Lutheran pastor is contemplating this passage that we annually use for Reformation Sunday. The fact we are hitting a half-millennium (500 year) mark makes everyone put out party balloons and pop the cork. Only, the difficulty of being Lutheran is as odd as the fact that “evangelicals” (their self-chosen name) are also using this anniversary to write about Luther and the value of the Protestant Reformation as fundamentally turning history. Luther was a man before his time. He understood education, literacy, and equality (teach the girls and boys alike) were needed to understand scripture and God’s intention not only for creation but for our lives. One pastor friend lamented that other denominations will do a better job of celebrating the Reformation than we, as Lutherans, will do. That may be true, but it depends on what he means.
I sense we must not only understand what we teach, but what we do and why we do it. Most of us simply feel comfortable by the ebb and flow of worship, its familiarity and predictability, and the music that can place the bounce of the Holy Spirit into the tasking job of listening to another sermon. I guess those are all points to weigh, but it seems we must remember the Reformation is not October 31, 1517…nor 2017…but in the faith to which Paul writes about Christ.
In my sermon of September 24 on the parable of the vineyard workers, I introduced what we at Faith United will do…each week we will look at the Small Catechism within the framework of the assigned lessons and see WHY Luther thought as he did. We will culminate this by a distinctive Martin Luther touch…we will have a Service on October 30th at 7:00 PM where Fr. John McLaughlin will preach and help preside here at Faith United. I want you there for this service. Luther wanted the “holy catholic (small “c” meaning ‘universal’) church to be preserved. He did not want division; he wanted scripture and the faith in Christ to remain the church’s foundation. “Sola gratia…sola fide…sola scriptura (only grace, only faith, only scripture) was the trinitarian reflection of God’s work and revelation to and among our fallen humanity.
Our newsletter and bulletin will show what other local Lutheran churches are doing. We can of course glance at these and forget them OR remember there are others who may be appreciating Luther’s contribution more apparently and (perhaps) fully than those who are Lutherans.
I will note what troubles me. Luther saw faith as a gift from Christ…in both Christ’s faithfulness (going to the cross) and the gift of faith given us (by the promised Holy Spirit). It was to bind us together when it has served so every new preacher thinks they have the ONLY way to salvation and the CORRECT way to understand scripture. I get that. I like to think God called me and somehow offered insight that serves in ways I cannot comprehend. Yet, “our faith is built on nothing less…” (to twist the hymn) on NO human act, thought, understanding, or belief. The church is built on Christ. That is our unity and a VERY divided church which suffers by our human certainty and comfort in our own spirituality. We must seek the unity in Christ to give justice to Luther’s willingness to stand on that reality even if it meant death. It is our death if we (and look at Matthew 20:1:16) are not worker in the ONE vineyard calling us to reflect the kingdom’s work among us.
With blessings…Pastor Joe