Psalm 46 (7)
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 (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
This weekend our church celebrates “Reformation Sunday.” We do it every year on the last Sunday in October. It is an opportunity for us to acknowledge the heritage that Martin Luther and his colleagues left us: the heritage of a Christ-centered and a faith-centered life, and a church that is dedicated to stay focused on the good news of what our Lord has done.
Martin Luther was a man of deep faith, but for the first portion of his life he was a man of troubled faith. He was constantly worried about what God thought of him. He, like most people in his day, thought of God as an angry, vengeful judge who would condemn him to an eternity of punishment if his faith and obedience weren’t sufficient. But as a young college professor Luther had a series of moving experiences which led him to understand God (and the Christian faith) in a completely different way. His study of the Bible revealed to him that God wasn’t an angry, vengeful being, but instead, a loving and gracious one. This revelation turned his life around. It made all the difference in the word. From that point on, for Luther, life would never be the same.
Luther became one of the most enthusiastic proponents of Christian faith the church has ever known. He shared these re-discovered insights about grace at every opportunity. He didn’t do it out of a sense of obligation or duty. His life was so dramatically changed, and his heart was so filled with joy, that he desperately wanted others to have the same experience. For the rest of his life he would stop at nothing to share it with them.
It reminds me of a conversation one of our young members reported to me. She told me about a friend who had rejected religion — who had decided that the church was “too controlling.” I thought: how sad! And how wrong! The church of Luther’s day may have lost its way, and may have become terribly controlling. But the church of Luther’s legacy understands that God has no interest in controlling us. God wants, instead, to love us. And when our hearts and souls are touched by God’s love, we too become incredibly enthusiastic about God and about God’s plans for us.
It is our enthusiasm about God’s grace that compels us to share the good news with others, to serve our neighbor, to provide strong financial support for the ministries of our church, to give of our time and our energy so the church can be strong… And it makes sense. The word enthusiasm comes from the Greek word en-Theos (or “God within”). Like the man who finds treasure in a field, or the merchant who catches a glimpse of a valuable pearl, we enthusiastically become involved with our whole heart, our whole soul, and our whole mind.
When the life of faith becomes an enthusiastic response to the grace of God, then we are offering the most appropriate tribute to Martin Luther and the other 16th Century reformers. This is how he came to experience (and enjoy) the presence of God in his life. And this is what he would want most for each of us today.
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week’s Gospel:
- Why was Martin Luther afraid of God during the first part of his life?
- What caused him to be so enthusiastic about his faith in the second part of his life?
- How is the message of this week’s Gospel lesson similar to what Luther heard and discovered?
Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:
- When has faith or religion felt like a somber duty to me?
- What makes me most enthusiastic about what God has done?
- How can I share that enthusiasm with the people I know and love?