Dearly Beloved in Christ:
As we have entered into another October, we soon will find ourselves coming to Reformation Sunday (October 30th, this year). Our Evangelical Lutheran Church (that is, the Holy Christian Faith as rightly confessed in The Book of Concord) has been celebrating this day, the day that German theologian and Doctor of the Church, Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses (or Questions) to the door of Wittenberg’s Castle Church, for almost 500 years. He did this on the Eve of All Saints’ Day, October 31st, 1517. We remember that God, in His mercy, allowed Dr. Martin Luther to rise up to restore to public preaching The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The preaching of that Gospel had been severely curtailed in the Church in the centuries prior to Dr. Luther. Once again the message that Jesus died to take away our sins and win for us eternal life was proclaimed from Christian pulpits.
After almost 500 years, we still desire to remain faithful to that message. This is the message that saves. How can we be faithful to it? We must admit that on our own we can never do such a thing. The sinner always ends up going against God’s will. Nor is faith something we possess and will always keep once we have it. Instead it is God’s gift to us. He gives it to us through Holy Baptism and through His Word. He also strengthens it through the Sacrament of The Altar. If we avoid these means of God’s gracious forgiveness, faith will eventually go away, like water trickling out of a cracked glass. If we stay in the Word and Sacraments, faith will remain strong and bright.
Now we sing: “Lord, help us ever to retain, The Catechism’s doctrine plain. As Luther taught The Word of Truth In simple style to tender youth” (TLH 288:1). Confirmation class, however long ago you went through it, was not graduation day from learning about God. Our Lord wants us to continue to learn about Him. In fact, Dr. Luther once claimed that he had not mastered the Catechism even though he was the author of two catechisms!
What do we learn in The Catechism? We learn from God’s holy Law to mourn our sin and to turn from it in faith to The Triune God. We learn to pray to our Father for needed help every day. We learn to live as His children since He received us in Holy Baptism. We learn to seek His forgiveness when we fall into sin. We learn that through His Sacrament He increases our faith until we depart this life in peace.
In this life, our new man, given us by God in Holy Baptism, will always struggle against the old Adam. That is why we need to stay in God’s Word. That’s why it’s good for us to continue to study the Catechism.
So as we celebrate The Reformation of The Church again this year, and as we look forward to next year’s 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, let us remember that the most precious thing is our Lord Jesus Christ. It is He who died to take away our sins. He is for us, and since He is for us, death and hell and Satan cannot have us. I close with this Reformation hymn, “O God, Our Lord, Thy Holy Word” (TLH 266), attributed to Dr. Luther, because it puts so well the Reformation theme, salvation by grace through faith alone given by Scripture alone:
O God, our Lord, Thy holy Word Was long a hidden treasure
Till to its place It was by grace Restored in fullest measure
For this today Our thanks we say And gladly glorify Thee.
Thy mercy show And grace bestow On all who still deny Thee.
Salvation free By faith in Thee, That is Thy Gospel’s preaching,
The heart and core Of Bible lore In all its sacred teaching.
In Christ we must Put all our trust, Not in our deeds or labor;
With conscience pure And heart secure Love Thee, Lord, and our neighbor.
Thou, Lord, alone This work hast done By Thy free grace and favor.
All who believe Will grace receive Thro’ Jesus Christ, our Savior.
And tho’ the Foe Would overthrow Thy Word with grim endeavor,
All he hath wrought Must come to naught,–Thy Word will stand forever.
My Lord art Thou, And for me now Death holds no dreadful terrors;
Thy precious Blood, my highest good, Hath blotted out my errors.
My thanks to Thee! Thou wilt to me Fulfil Thy promise ever
And mercy give While here I live And heav’nly bliss forever
In Christ our Lord,
Pastor Steven Anderson