Ok, so it's for Halloween, too...
but for us Lutherans, the last Sunday in October is Reformation Sunday,
a day on which we remember the work of Dr. Martin Luther, who, on October
31st, 1517, posted a document for scholarly debate on the door of the Church
in Wittenberg. This document, Luther's 95 Theses, outlined not just debate
topics, but a revolution against the abuses of the Church of that day.
Is for Reformation!
The issue of the
sale of indulgences (an indulgence was a letter granting forgiveness from
sin and release from time in purgatory, or sometimes even from hell) to
support either public or church-related building projects, the work of
the church, the support of governmental figures, or just plain greed on
the part of professional sellers of such things, was something that really
troubled Luther. Abuses and distortions were widespread, and since ordinary
people had no real access to the scriptures to see what God's real intent
for them was, there was no way for people to know what to do. They simply
believed what they were told that the scriptures said and meant-they couldn't
read the plain, clear language of scripture for themselves.
One of the first
"As soon as a coin
in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs!" This slogan, widely
attributed to Johann Tetzel (the Vatican's chief and most successful indulgence
sales drone), was extremely persuasive... it was short, easy to understand,
and kind of rhymed.
But how could people
judge what was true or not? The church, the political leaders, and even
"Rhymin' Johann" all said it was true. And it felt good to pay a few bucks
and get yourself (or even a dead relative!) out of "the hot place." The
problem was... it wasn't true. And not just because Luther said it wasn't
true. It wasn't true because it contradicted the clear language of scripture,
replacing God's command and will and the gospel for a crass money-making
scheme. Luther knew that if the practice of the sale of indulgences was
allowed to continue, it would result in the spiritual damage and even condemnation
of countless Christians who believed and trusted the word of the church
- when the church's word had been given over to special interest groups,
powerful people and secular and church politicians in exchange for money,
power, influence and social agendas. I'm certainly glad that could never
happen today! (Oh, wait a minute...)
The importance of
understanding scripture and allowing it to speak to us, rather than making
it conform to our own values, politics and world view, is as important
as it ever was. So... find a Bible Study to join, read the scriptures for
yourself, attend worship and hear God's Word read and preached!
A favorite hymn,
written by Martin Luther, is "Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word," and
will be sung at Trinity on Reformation Sunday (in addition, of course,
to "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God"!). The first verse of the hymn is something
to grab onto:
"Lord, Keep us steadfast
in your Word; Curb those who by deceit or sword, would wrest the kingdom
from your Son, and bring to nought all he has done."
Be Strong in God's
Pastor Larry Becker