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October 2016 - Beginning Reformation Reflections

Beginning Reformation Reflections

                In October 2017 we will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation – and you can be sure that there will be much celebration and thanksgiving unto our Gracious Lord as we think upon the rediscovery of the Gospel.   Though the big celebration will be in about a year, I thought that it would be good to do a series of articles leading up to that time that will focus on various aspects of the Reformation history and our Lutheran Faith – what it means to be Lutheran and how we have been gifted by our Lord to be able shine the Light of Christ and the Gift of Salvation to an ever increasingly dark and lost world.  In a world that is growing in wickedness and self-deception and mired in relativistic foolishness we can proclaim the Truth of God’s Word in all of its entirety and purity, uncompromising and yet spoken in love; gentle but unyielding and trusting in God the Holy Spirit to work through that Word He has given us to feast upon and share.

The Reformation, truly the rediscovery of the Gospel – for that in essence is what the Reformation was about.  I say rediscovery of the Gospel because for so long it had been lost to the Church, or at least the pure proclaiming of it.  In the centuries after Christianity was made the official religion of the Roman Empire by Constantine, the Word of God was slowly being hidden behind false teachings, ignorance and superstition.

I imagine that most folks are familiar with the “storm incident” in Luther’s life that led to his becoming a monk.  He was traveling home from the University of Erfurt where he was studying to become a lawyer when a storm of such strength and magnitude knocked him down to the ground and fearing for his life cried out: “St. Anne help me and I will become a monk!”  She did, and he did J.  Now why did Luther cry out for help from St. Anne, the patron saint of miners (his family’s vocation) rather than God? 

By Luthers Day, false teaching had spread throughout the entire Church, with practically no pastor holding on to the Words of Jesus and teaching the Word of God in its purity – and so the number of false teachings grew.  A great contributer to the problem was that the Bible was literally kept out of church member’s hands.  Obviously there were very few copies available, and none in their own language.  Only the top seminaries and shelves of the so-called scholars had full copies of the Bible, written only in the original Greek and Hebrew, and the Latin translation. 

            Without scripture available, the church leaders told the people what to believe, even reaching the point that they actually said that: “Whatever we say is on PAR with the Bible.  Our teachings (whatever they may be) are just as true as God’s teachings (if not more in some cases)”.

            And slowly, more and more of God’s Word became twisted and covered up. Law and Gospel were hopelessly mixed up.  The Loving God our Creator, the One willing to Sacrifice His own Son for us, was dissolved away, and instead, God was more and more portrayed more like fallen, natural mankind views God – as being a cold, vicious, vindictive judge, a stern and angry God with His ax of judgment ready to fall, just waiting for the slightest excuse or provocation to let it fall and send us to suffer in hell.  That was the God that Luther trembled before and even despised at times. 

            It was taught that it was far safer to approach this angry Christ through His friends the saints (Hence Luther’s petition to Anne), or even better through His mother the Virgin Mary. 

But it was when he finally was able to study the scriptures themselves that the heart of our Loving God was revealed to Luther – revealed in the Christ Who would sacrifice Himself for our sins and that by trusting in that blessed work of Jesus alone made one righteous in God’s eyes. 

            It was this revelation from God’s Word that so moved Luther to want to translate the Bible into the language of the German people so they themselves could see the Heart of God and hear the Gospel once again proclaimed to comfort their anguished souls.  No longer would they have to be burdened with the false religion of works righteousness, never really being able to satisfy the demands of a Holy and angry God, nor soften the stern countenance of Christ the Condemning Judge.  Instead they would know that they could cry out in their sinful guilt to the Good Shepherd Who had already paid the price of their guilt in full and know that they had been forgiven and made righteous in God’s eyes by the Blood of Jesus poured out for them. 

            That is the Reformation, the rediscovery of the Gospel.  That is the comforting, eternal life giving Truth that you have received in your Lutheran faith – a Truth worth celebrating – and sharing!



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