In the name of the Father, and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear Friends in Christ,
Every year on the Sunday closest to October 31 we observe the Reformation. This year is a little different because it seems like we have been talking about and studying about the Reformation all year long.
Most years it is only the Lutherans who take time to remember the people and events of the Reformation but not this year. This year, Lutherans, Protestants, and even Roman Catholics have taken time to remember what began 500 years ago in Wittenberg, Germany.
Publishing houses have been busy printing new books on the Reformation and on key people like Martin Luther, Philipp Melanchthon, and Katarina von Bora. Even the Public Broadcasting System got in on the act by producing a new documentary about the Reformation.
With so much information about the history of the Reformation it is easy to overlook or miss what is most important for us to know. The Reformation is not about a nail and a hammer. It is not about emperors and popes, it is not about priests and nuns being allowed to marry, it is not really about indulgences or Bibles in the German language or great hymns.
A Man In Torment
The Reformation was and still is about a man in torment, a man whose conscience was day and night accusing him of his sins. This man knew he could not stand before God claiming that he was righteous. The Reformation today is about men and women whose consciences won’t let them rest.
Saint Paul wrote, “we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.” Martin Luther had no trouble believing this. He knew that he was under the law and that he was accountable to God for every thought, word, and deed that he did.
Jesus said, “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” Luther knew that he was a slave to his sinful nature. No matter how hard he tried he could not live a day without sinning. Luther counted himself as a hopeless sinner because he knew he could not free himself from his slavery to sin.
Brother Martin in the monastery and Father Martin at the altar found no comfort giving up the riches of the world or serving the church full-time. He found no forgiveness through the repetition of prayers, continual confession, or the saying of the mass.
Martin hated God for telling him that he must be righteous but making it impossible to earn that righteousness. A man in torment that is the story of the Reformation. The story of the Reformation is that Luther in searching the Scriptures found a God who was merciful and gracious. Luther found a God who graciously covers sinners with the righteousness of his own Son.
What Are We To Do?
What are we to do about our slavery to sin? What if we turn to the Law of God: The Ten Commandments and all that they can teach us, will that free you and me from our slavery to sin? If we diligently study the Law of God, will that keep us from sinning?
Will knowledge of the Law justify us before God? Do we have hope that if we are obedient to the Law we will be righteous in God’s sight? Saint Paul has answers to our questions about the Law.
First, we are all under the Law. Not one of us can open his or her mouth and say to God that we are not accountable for our actions. There is no room for excuses to God. Second, no matter how hard we try to keep the Law “no human being will be justified in God’s sight by keeping the law.” Third, the better we know the Law, the more we study the Law, the more it accuses and convicts us.
The deeper we dig into understanding the Law the more we learn that what we thought was not a sin yesterday actually was one. The Law demands one thing of us and one thing only – perfect love. It demands love for God and others from our whole being; in all our thoughts, all our words, and all our actions.
God’s Answer To The Law
The Word of God has spoken through the Law. Here we stand, convicted before him, helpless to save ourselves just as Luther found himself. What Luther found in the Word of God is our answer to the Law of God. As he studied Scriptures he heard the Good News about forgiveness and salvation that comes apart the Law.
You are not righteous before God because of what you are able to do. In his great mercy, God has given you the gift of his Son’s righteousness. Jesus did what you are unable to do he kept the Law perfectly. The righteousness that God reveals to you in his Word is a perfect righteousness. It’s a gift of his perfect love.
The righteousness of God comes to you by the grace of God alone through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Christ redeems you from slavery to sin and death and the devil. Jesus suffered and died, he shed his blood as the payment for your unrighteousness.
You are covered with the white robes of Christ’s righteousness. The robes that cover you are robes that have been washed in the blood of the Lamb, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. This is the unfathomable love of your God, this is the life saving message of the gospel,
- The Father sent his own Son to be punished for your sins,
- The Son laid down his life as a sacrifice and ransom for you
- The Holy Spirit give you the power to believe and the strength to live as a new creation in Christ Jesus.
- The Reformation Is About Remembering and celebrating the Reformation is not about boasting that we call ourselves Lutherans. It is about confessing our sins and calling to God, “Lord have mercy.” The story of the Reformation is that we are free to live each day each day forgiven by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ.No more do you need to live with a guilty and tormented conscience. “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Hear the word of the psalmist, “The LORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.”In the name of the Jesus. Amen.Soli Deo Gloria