October 27, 2019: Reformation Sunday

Reformation Sunday

October 27, 2019

Let us pray: Dear Savior, on this day we celebrate the great victory of forgiveness over the schemes of both men and Satan.  For on this day all their attempts at obscuring Your forgiveness won on the cross and given us to freely by faith were overcome.  Scripture alone, grace alone, and faith alone were upheld as the Godly truths they are.  May we all prove ourselves worthy recipients—made worthy by the power of Your gospel truth!  Amen


TEXT:  Mark 13: 5-11


The year was 1517.  The 100 years’ war between England and France had come to an end about 70 years before.  Italy was riding high, basking in the glamour of the Renaissance.  Germany was mired in the political pettiness of about 400 “states” who often worked at cross-purposes.  And Pope Leo X needed money.  He was building St. Peter’s and it was costing a fortune.  So, he hit on the novel scheme of selling indulgences.  That is, slips of paper printed up that declared any and all sins against God were forgiven—for a price.  It was dry tinder just needing one match to set off a conflagration in restive Germany.

Dr. Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk and professor of OT and Hebrew at the new university in Wittenburg, Germany was the match.  As he struck hammer blows to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, nailing up his 95 theses for public debate about such abuses of grace, the bonfire began.  Luther had no army.  He had no money.  Yet, he possessed the power of Godly forgiveness won by Christ.  The religious Civil War had begun.


Four years later, the Civil War was in full swing.  The Roman Catholic Emperor of all Europe, Charles V, called a “diet” a council in the city of Worms.  Luther was summoned to defend his writings under pain of death.  But he was not alone.  He had Lutheran princes on his side.  He stood before the “kings and princes” of the age and refused to recant, or take back the Godly truth of: Grace alone saves us; Scripture alone is the only source of Divine truth; and faith alone is how we come to possess such saving truth.  His recantation, or lack thereof here, was a powerful witness of Godly forgiveness.  Subsequent years showed how such forgiveness conquered human power. That’s why for over 400 years the Lutheran church has used this little section from Mark 13 to mark Reformation Sunday.  Especially note these words of Christ: “On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them.  And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.  Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say, just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.”  These words applied to Dr. Luther at Worms.


Earlier in history, they also applied to St. Paul as he stood before Felix the Roman governor and also, later on, the Roman emperor.   They applied to Peter as he stood up for the Gospel.  They applied to all the other disciples and all the saints and martyrs who refused to renounce the truth that: “Jesus Christ is Lord of all.”  The point of the Reformation is this: God freely saves poor sinners by grace alone.  His undeserved love, shown by His bloody death on the cross for us, cannot be bought for human money or stolen by human power.  It is a free gift given us and made ours through faith alone.  So, all human attempts at trying to buy God off by human efforts and works, no matter how holy they may appear to be,  is doomed to failure.   Nothing we do is perfect.  But everything Christ did to save us IS Perfect!  That’s why Grace Alone saves!


Deep down in your heart, you know, all humans know, that they are sinners.  That they don’t measure up to God’s perfect standards.  It causes inner turmoil and spiritual pain and ultimately death.  Down deep we know God didn’t create us to die, but we do—because we bring it on ourselves.  Break it down and you must also confess that all humans face one singular dilemma: how do I square myself with God?  Can I cajole Him into accepting me?  Can I force Him to love me?  Can I buy Him off or pay for some potentate in the visible church to give me an indulgence?  All such attempts at self-righteousness stink, literally to high heaven!  No, I need the gospel of Christ, the forgiveness for all sins that He won for me.  I need it to be given to me as a free gift because nothing I have can compare to, or is as valuable as, His blood and righteousness.

The hammer blows struck on Oct. 31st in Wittenburg were the match that hit this spiritual/emotional tinderbox and literally blew up!  And although the world has tried to tamp it down, the same tinder exists today and needs to also be set on fire to literally save souls.  Forgiveness from God is the most powerful force in all creation.  It sets souls free and reforms the human heart.  It is born of repentance and faith.  It gives birth to a new life and a peace-filled conscience.  So, don’t be timid in using it every day in your life, your marriage, in your family at large, at work, as a citizen.  When you forgive as Christ has forgiven you, only good things can result.  And, and, you’re living proof of that fact.  Amen

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