Monday, October 22, 2007

Reformation Required John 8:31-36

My apologies to any non-Lutherans who read this blog. The last Sunday in October is our day to commemorate the reformation and the freedom we have in Christ. If you were looking for thoughts about Pentecost 25c please try

Freedom came to earth in the flesh and blood person of Jesus. He came to give us true freedom to trust both our earthly lives and our eternal lives into God’s hands. True freedom comes from believing in Jesus and nothing we do or say. Our faith holds on to the promise that Jesus is God for us yesterday, today, and always.

Looking back at the Reformation these days day. I see a great chance to celebrate our freedom as Christians. Today we remember a struggle that happened 500 years ago. It was a fight about Christian Freedom. Trouble is most people in the 21st century don’t have a clue what we are talking about when we say Reformation. It's just ancient history. But its effects are still shaking up churches of all denominations across the globe today.

For people on the outside the church looking in the Reformation was a great big bloody church fight. Some look and say that it cost too many lives and caused too much hurt over too many generations. This fight happened between 4 and 500 years ago. There is no one alive today who deserves any shred of blame or bears any responsibility for it. It is as part of our church’s heritage; but it is not our fight.

Today we live with the message of the reformation still in our ears. That freedom in Christ comes from faith. We can’t earn that freedom; only Jesus can offer it to us. As a believer inside the church today I see the Reformation as a struggle about finding freedom for troubled souls. This is not a day to poke holes in other believers or to make their lives miserable. Today we need to remember our freedom in Christ. It was the freedom that Luther and the other reformers gladly risked their lives to preach to the world.

Above all remember that the reform of the church started unexpectedly on October 31, 1517 when a pastor and teacher named, Martin Luther, stood up to call for debate about the way the church in his day worked. Maybe you’ve heard that he went to the chapel door at Wittenberg, the University town where he taught, with a list of 95 Theses. He posted them on the door, right along side of other notices. He left an invitation for other scholars to debate the practice and life of the church. I don’t believe he envisioned the wars and bloodshed that would come because of the reform he sought that All Hallows Eve. I think he only wanted an open honest discussion about God’s Word in his time.

Luther’s intentions were quickly forgotten as the Reformation started to spread faster and farther into society than anyone could have imagined. This was no scholar’s only debate. The debate started first in Saxony and then spread throughout Germany. Shopkeepers, craftsman, farmers, nobleman, princes, soldiers and even the clergy began to debate about God’s Word. News of the debate reached Rome. Soon the pope and his agents became enraged that a German monk would dare challenge their authority. Resentment about the medieval church ran deep in German society. Many latched on to what they heard from Luther. Other’s viewed Luther’s reforms as too limited. They wanted to overthrow everything and level society once and for all. But that wasn’t Luther’s goal. His goal was to help troubled consciences find peace in Jesus.

Luther’s criticism was clear and simple. Men, trying to raise money to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, were sent to Germany, and other parts of Europe selling indulgences. They were selling papers promising eternal freedom in exchange for money. Luther argued that the church couldn’t sell such freedom. Faith in Jesus, he argued, was the only thing needed to enter the kingdom of God. The church was broken. Luther believed it needed to be fixed. Luther’s call to reform was so clear that it still rings out all around in the Christian church today.

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