How good God has been to each one of us! He sent his Son, Jesus, to live a perfect life so that perfection could become ours through faith. Jesus died and rose to forgive our sins and give us eternal life with him. He brought us to faith through the Gospel. Now, he opens our eyes to see all those living around us who need to hear the good news of all God has done for them. Our gracious God empowers us to boldly and eagerly share all that God has done with our friends, our neighbors, our relatives, and all people we meet in life.
We are living in the end times. Jesus promised that the end times would be perilous for Christians due to the increase of wickedness and the decrease of faith and love. The times are also perilous for those outside the Church, because judgment is near for all. However, God’s Word gives us reason to be confident. Today, we hear that can be confident in these end times because we have seen and heard how God took care of the saints who went before us. Forgiven in our Savior, we can look forward to God’s gracious care here on earth and eternal triumph in heaven.
Today the Christian Church celebrates the Festival of the Reformation of the Church. What does that mean?
The effect of the Lutheran Reformation of the church on the history of the world can hardly be overstated. Quite simply, it caused one of the most profound sea-changes in history. In fact, when US News and World Report ranked the most important events of the last 1000 years, the Lutheran Reformation placed second, right behind Gutenberg’s moveable type printing press. Now consider that for a moment… That means that they considered the Lutheran Reformation to be of greater significance than the discovery of the New World (North America), which was number three.
But why? Who was this Luther guy? He was a monk, a priest, and a professor at a little university in Wittenberg, Germany. Why would a guy like that be listed as the third most influential person of the last 1000 years (1000 Years and 1000 People, Gottlieb and Bowers). More important than Einstein, Edison, or George Washington?
Why? During the dark days of the Middle Ages, the truth of God’s Word was hidden away in monasteries. The Church of that day was not teaching that we are saved by Jesus’ death and resurrection. Instead, people were told that they needed to try and earn their way to heaven—or worse, that they had to buy their way to heaven. The truth of God’s Word was rejected, and the traditions of men put in its place.
Dr. Luther changed all of that on October 31st, 1517, when he nailed 95 Statements for Debate on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. He said that the Bible should be our only source of teaching, not man-made traditions. He showed that God saved us by grace alone, by faith alone. He returned the Bible into the hands of the people and quite literally changed the world.
Today, we are not here to celebrate a man, but what God did through a man. We’re here to celebrate the grace of a God who reformed his Church, and brought back the pure and simple teaching that had been lost: Jesus died and rose for me, so I will be in heaven forever. Period.
By Grace Alone. By Faith Alone. By Scripture Alone.
The Festival of the Reformation
This week we acknowledge that God alone deserves the glory for the rescue he has accomplished for us. 500 years ago people were more likely to give glory to their rituals and behavior than to God. Today people are very interested in how God should glorify us with happiness and fulfillment, but not so interested in finding happiness and fulfillment in the gifts God has already given. Therefore, half a millennium later, we still confess that God has saved us in Christ, and we are more than happy to thank him by saying, "To God alone be the glory!" Still.
This week we learn that God's eternal gifts become ours through a connecting agent called faith. Trust in Jesus connects us to all that he has done. 500 years ago, people put their trust in people (alive and dead), tradition, and anyone or anything that could assuage their fear. Today, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction, as many teach and believe that belief in God makes no difference at all. Still half a millennium later, the truth lies in the middle: trust in Jesus Christ connects us to all that he has done for us. Still.
This week we see that God's grace accomplished our salvation in Christ, and Christ alone. 500 years ago, people traded grace for self-validation. Today, the same self-help theology is seen in those who, if they admit a need for a Savior, only want part of him. However, where Jesus doesn't work completely, there can be no certainty. Thu, half a millennium later, the Savior who literally calmed the seas at one time, still calms hearts for all time. Still.
THE STORM OF TRUTH THAT BROUGHT ENDLESS PEACE
This week we see that God did what we never could, namely, give us life that lasts and eternal worth. 500 years ago, people banked on the false hope that God would give a little help and you had to do the rest. Today, work righteousness is seen in mantras like, "God helps those who help themselves" or modicums like "All you got to do is..." If true, how could you ever know if you have done enough? We can't. Thus, half a millennium later we still see and hear that God saves by grace alone. Still.
Today’s lessons cause the worshiper to ask: Is God fair? No, he’s not. He doesn’t give us what we deserve, and that’s called mercy. In fact, he gives us what we don’t deserve, and that’s called grace. What is our God like? Our God is inconceivably gracious. Our God is generous to everyone!
We live in an age that endorses every aspect of individual freedom and insists on toleration of a wide variety of ideas. But toleration isn’t always good, especially when one’s eternal salvation is at stake. So, God gives us pastors and parents, friends and family in our lives to show us true love—a love that points out our sin and takes us to our Savior and his forgiveness. In awe of God’s love for us, God calls us in love to reach out to others with God’s Law and Gospel for the sake of their soul!
As children of God, what should we expect from life? As we hear from our readings today, at times our life may be anything but a joy and delight. In fact, as we follow Christ, we can expect hardships and difficulties. Those trials that come into our life because of our faith are the cross that Jesus calls us to carry as we follow him. We may struggle to bear the cross that our God gives us, but he promises not only to strengthen us for our hardships here on earth, but he lifts our eyes to heaven, where the glory that is awaiting us there makes our struggles pale in comparison.
Sometimes before you can move forward, you have to take a step back to get everyone on the same page. Every fall we see it on the football field. It's just as true for the church. Before sending the church out into the world, Jesus reminded them of what Christianity was all about, and, as a result, what they had to offer. This week we see that Christianity builds on a foundation that won’t fall. The name of the Lord is not just a title that distinguishes the true God from false gods, it is the very definition and who he is. By confessing the name of the Christ, Christianity builds on a foundation that won’t fall.