Psalm 46 (7)
St. John 8:31-36
Prayer of the Day:
Almighty God, gracious Lord, we thank you that your Holy Spirit renews the church in every age. Pour out your Holy Spirit on your faithful people. Keep them steadfast in your word, protect and comfort them in times of trial, defend them against all enemies of the gospel, and bestow on the church your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
8:31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
St. John 8:31-36. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
Reformed or Reforming?
On October 31, 1517, the evening before All Saints’ Day (then referred to as All Hallowed’s Eve; now as Halloween), when the city of Wittenberg, Germany was teeming with Christian pilgrims who had traveled there to celebrate the festival, Martin Luther made a trip to the entrance doors of the Castle Church. Long used as the official bulletin board of the University, he nailed on them a bulletin of his own: the Ninety-five Theses, a statement of his objections to some of the practices of the church in his day.
Copies of this document were quickly generated with one of the newest technologies of his time: the printing press with movable type. In no time at all visitors to Wittenberg had copies of Luther’s protest, and carried them back home when they left town. Soon word of Luther’s teaching, and his challenge to Rome, had traveled all over Europe. With this bold action, the Reformation that was to give birth to our own Lutheran Church had begun.
Since the mid 17th century, Lutherans through the world have paused at this time every year to remember Martin Luther and the other reformers, and to give thanks for their strong and bold witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But Reformation Sunday is not a celebration of the past, as if the church reformed itself five hundred years ago, and has been just fine ever since. Reformation Sunday is a time to recall that our particular movement within Christianity is one that continually looks for how we need to reform ourselves in order that our proclamation of the Good News continues to be fresh and clear and compelling. We are not a reformed church: we are a reforming church. And Reformation Sunday reminds of this important aspect of being Lutheran.
The lessons appointed for Reformation Sunday — lessons that many Lutheran churches will hear read this coming Sunday, all get to the heart of the reformation. Jeremiah speaks of a day when God will make a new covenant with believers; a covenant that is dependent on God’s faithfulness, not the believer’s ability to earn God’s love. Romans proclaims that all humans have fallen short of God’s expectations, and all are justified by the miracle of God’s grace. John speaks of the freedom that is granted to every believer in Christ — freedom from having to please God in order to be “saved” — freedom to live life as a response to the goodness of God’s love.
As we prepare ourselves for the celebration of another Reformation Day, let us not think only of our heritage, and days gone by. Let us also think also about the future, and the ways in which God is continuing to reform and reshape us to be the kind of people who can be credible witnesses to others of the difference it makes to have Christ in our lives.
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week’s Gospel:
- What do I remember about Martin Luther and the other reformers?
- What truths about the gospel of Jesus Christ did they rediscover?
- How did their work change the church, and the proclamation of the gospel?
Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:
- What is there in my life that God desires to reform?
- How might I draw near to God, and allow that reformation to begin?
- Who might partner with me, so that we can encourage one another to stay open to how the Holy Spirit would work through us to reform us and revitalize our faith?