We acknowledge the Reformation in our church because it was the Reformation that precipitated the founding of our denomination. For years up until the Reformation, in the early 1500’s, the church had been charged with false teaching and abusing its authority. There were some who had tried to institute change within the church but were met with much opposition by those in authority. Often times, the church simply killed those who wanted change and seemingly posed a threat. The church wasn’t interested in significant reform. It wanted to keep the status quo, and those in authority wanted to preserve their authority and influence over the laity. Leading the church that way was much easier than trying to accommodate the desires and wishes of those who demanded reform.
As time went on, the church could no longer ignore the demands for reform. The clamor for change got louder and louder. More and more pressure was exerted on the church. Eventually, the church had to come to terms with the new religious landscape in Europe that had emerged as a result of the Reformation. No longer was there just one church. After the Reformation, several denominations appeared, Lutheranism being one of them.
Our church has its roots in the Reformation. We identify ourselves as being Lutheran. We’ve been around for about 500 years. We didn’t just pop up on the scene of history recently. We have a long tradition.
Now maybe some of us are curious as to why we are called Lutherans. Well, it’s because a man by the name of Martin Luther---not Martin Luther King Jr. the civil rights leader—exposed the false teachings of the church at that time. When it came to the teaching of salvation, the church taught that it was our good works which allow us into heaven. Our good works take center stage instead of Jesus’ death and resurrection from the dead. But Martin Luther insisted that it was faith in Jesus that mattered most in salvation. As a matter of fact, he quoted the apostle Paul, our very text, to prove his point.
Martin Luther was excommunicated from the church. But this didn’t stop him from continuing to reform the teachings of the church. He went on to translate the Bible into German for the German people. He wrote hymns, established schools, and continued to produce theological writings. His followers became known as Lutherans. That’s how we got the name Lutheran. We have decided to follow the teachings of Martin Luther because they are an accurate interpretation of the Bible.
The main reason we identify as being Lutherans is because we agree with Martin Luther that faith in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, is the only way a person can enter into God’s kingdom. There is no other way. As Paul says in our text, we are justified by our faith in Jesus Christ, not by the good works we have done. It’s the good work of Jesus that saves us. We cannot save ourselves.
That’s why we make a big deal about the Reformation. That’s why we acknowledge it each year. The Reformation was all about restoring the truth.
I realize that many people today have probably never heard of the Reformation. It wasn’t taught to them in school. To be honest, I’m not sure what is taught in schools any more. Anyway, not too many people are familiar with events that changed the religious landscape of 500 years a go and can still be seen today. Many people think that because the Reformation happened a long time ago it’s no longer relevant for us today. It no longer has a message for us.
It’s unfortunate that people don’t know their history. I wonder if people who attend a Protestant church in our country make a connection to the Reformation. The Reformation explains why we have the various Protestant denominations we have today. But I’m sure not many people know this.
I don’t want us to be ignorant about this fact. I want us to know why we are Lutherans and where Lutheranism came from---and not just for the sake of knowing this. We are Lutherans because we want to be associated with and linked to the truth. That’s what the Reformation is all about.
Denominations do matter. The tendency today, though, is to downplay the differences between denominations. "Why should we make a fuss about different denominations? We all more or less believe in the same God. Aren’t we making mountains out of molehills over our slight differences? Can’t we all just get along and work together?" If only it were that easy.
Unfortunately, all denominations don’t more or less believe the same thing. These differences in belief stem from different interpretations of the Bible. Some denominations don’t regard the Bible as an authority at all. So, it’s hard to unite with such denominations. Believe me, I wish there weren’t the differences because together we could accomplish a whole lot more in terms of spreading the Gospel, but the reality is that the beliefs of some denominations oppose the truth of the Bible. We can’t possibly be in fellowship with them. We have to stand on the hard-fought truths of the Reformation.
Over the years the church since the Reformation has compromised the truth. That’s quite evident today. I look at the liberalism that has crept into many churches and wonder how they can still call themselves Christian. I’m sure there are churches that welcome the recent decision to allow gay marriage in our state. (By the way, it’s a sad day in the history of our state. It’s another example of man’s rebellion against what God ordained from the beginning: that any marital union be between a man and a woman. God may not punish our state tomorrow, but believe me a day is coming when those who made this horrible decision will have to give an account.)
The church is in need of reform today because of the liberalism it has embraced. We need a modern Reformation in the church. The church needs to get back to the truth of Jesus Christ as it is proclaimed in the Bible. Many churches have forgotten their roots in Christ Jesus. And like I said, how can they call themselves a church?
I hope that our church, our congregation will not veer to the left or to the right but continue down the path of Jesus Christ. I hope we will continue to esteem the Bible which is God’s truth to us. We must not go along with the crowd. Instead, we must remain faithful to the truths of the Reformation, the main truth being salvation in no one else but Jesus Christ.
It’s not easy remaining loyal to the truths of the Reformation. The world continues to change at a rapid pace. Fewer and fewer people believe in Christ Jesus. The moral fabric of our society is being eaten away. And most people don’t really care about what is happening. Many so-called Christians don’t care what’s happening in their own congregations.
That can’t be us. We need to stand on the truth for our own sake and for the sake of our children. What kind of church do we want to pass on to our children? I certainly hope a church that believes in Jesus Christ, and one that stands on the morals of the Bible.
May we continue the Reformation tradition of Martin Luther who stood on the morals and truth of the Bible, the truth being we are justified by faith in Jesus Christ.