Reformation Sunday - Why We Remember It

On October 31,1517, a Catholic priest named Martin Luther posted an invitation to a debate on his church door at Wittenberg. The invitation, entitled "Ninety-Five Theses or Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences," listed 95 statements about the some quite basic issues Luther had with the Pope, with the way salvation and forgiveness were being taught to God's people, and with the misuse of scripture.

Luther, who was growing in his understanding of faith, scripture and church history and tradition, wanted to engage the church in a debate about these things so that the real mission of the church could be reclaimed. The problem: no one responded to his invitation, and the debate was never held. Perhaps they didn't understand how important it was? Maybe they were afraid - after all, Luther was confronting the most powerful people on the planet. Possibly their
favorite TV show was on that night. But whatever the reasons were, one came.

So why wasn't that the end of it? Why are we still talking about this cranky priest and his radical ideas? Well, this, of course, was not the end of it.  People copied down his work and the newly invented printing press was used to distribute it throughout Christendom. Debates were held, people talked, scripture was studied and the Spirit moved in the Church again. True Christian Freedom, based in the Scriptures rather than church tradition or culture, was let loose in the church, and the world was changed.

"But that was then, this is now," as they say. "Times have changed - why do we need to go back to the frustrated monk and his concerns about the Pope and the church?" The answer is simple: the church continues to be distracted by
culture, power and money and needs to be brought back to having Scripture as the source of its faith, life and direction for ministry. Unless we have scripture at the source of who we are and what we do as a church, we are simply building on a mist, on the changing whims of culture and the political correctness of the moment. Without scripture, what we say and do has no more importance or value in the Kingdom of God than what a religious cult or any other human institution might do.

Please know without a doubt that there are those within the church who have a social and political agenda that if allowed to go unchecked would take the church so far from the meaning and intent of scripture that we might as well
just join a service club (no offence to service clubs...). The response one often hears from these people: "Why are you so slavishly following scripture? You're making scripture itself an idol that gets in the way of following God! We just need to follow Jesus" - no matter what the scriptures actually say.

Yeah, fine. But without a genuine respect for and understanding of the scriptures, we really have no true sense of what Jesus said and did, or what the disciples taught, or what's in the Old Testament, or what the Apostle Paul was so concerned about. If we ignore the Bible every time it contradicts our sensibilities, why are we bothering with it at all? What's the point?

I guess it's a good thing Luther didn't listen to these people, either.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Larry