Special Events

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Today’s article could be titled something like: “Reformation, Halloween, All Saints, Mission of Christ Network, Mid-term National Elections, Zion Lutheran Church Walburg Wurstbraten, Legacy Deo Board of Directors, and Legacy Deo Sunday.” There are undoubtedly other special events this week but this list will suffice. I’ll simply call all those listed above “Special Events.”

Much could be said about each of these events and activities. They mean many things to many people. Some are related to Christian mission and ministry organizational operations. Others are fund raisers for charitable causes. Still others are related to civic or governmental entities and offices. Terry and/or I are involved in all of them. I imagine you have your own list as well.

At times I’m inclined to think that if I were to decide not to participate in any or all of these and the numerous other events and activities on my calendar, no one would miss my presence or involvement. Then I realize that if everyone felt that way, no one would show up or participate. Then the worthy causes would not be supported and their objectives would not be accomplished.

Would that be eternally consequential? Perhaps not on the surface. But digging a little deeper produces a reminder that all charitable or governmental causes should be designed to benefit the lives of people. The people who participate feel a sense of fulfillment at having done something meaningful for someone else. The people who benefit from the events in question are blessed in numerous ways, including physically, spiritually, emotionally, and eternally.

So during these days of significant festivals and endeavors, I hope you join me in thanking God for the opportunity to be involved in special events and worthy causes. And join me also in thanking God that those who benefit from these organizations and endeavors will be blessed by such special events and the people whose time and effort make them happen.

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Ablaze!

Ablaze

At the 2004 national convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, this resolution was adopted: “LCMS World Mission, in collaboration with its North American and worldwide partners, will share the Good News of Jesus Christ with 100 million unreached or uncommitted people by the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.”

Today is that day.

Although efforts to achieve this goal have received minimal publicity since the 2010 LCMS national convention, I thank God for the millions of people around the world who have heard the Gospel through the efforts of faithful folks who take seriously this ongoing endeavor.

“By grace you have been saved, through faith. It is a gift of God!” To God alone be the glory!

A blessed 500th Reformation anniversary to each of you!

Reformation 500

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Next Tuesday, October 31 is the day we’ll observe as the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Many Christians, especially we Lutherans, have been anticipating this day for some time.

The blessing of the Reformation is the return of a distracted church to the central truth of Christianity that eternal salvation is a free gift of God’s grace, through faith in Christ our Lord.

Here’s a brief summary of the Reformation and its primary causes:

  • In the late 15th century the Catholic Church was afflicted by internal corruption.
  • The sale of “indulgences” raised money to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
  • Indulgences made people believe deceased loved ones could be released from purgatory.
  • The slogan was: “When a coin in the coffer clings, a soul from purgatory springs.”
  • Onto this scene arrived a troubled man named Martin Luther.
  • Luther saw God as a God of justice and was tormented by unforgiven guilt and sin.
  • In a thunderstorm during which Luther’s traveling companion was killed by a bolt of lightning, Luther exclaimed, “Save me, St. Anne. I will become a monk!”
  • He survived, became a monk, but could find no peace with God through his own effort.
  • Luther’s discovery of God’s grace came primarily from Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
  • What happened next was an act of courage, motivated by what Luther had discovered.
  • He boldly spoke biblical truth to the church’s power by posting his 95 theses, intended as an invitation for debate on topics of faith and church practice.
  • Pressure was placed on him to retract his criticism of church belief and practice.
  • He refused to do so and was threatened with excommunication from the Catholic Church.
  • Asked to retract his writings, Luther simply stated: “Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason, for I do not accept the authority of popes and councils because they have contradicted each other, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.”
  • Ultimately, Luther was excommunicated for refusing to retract his beliefs.

The assertion that salvation comes only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and not by our own doing was the primary catalyst of the Protestant Reformation. That truth is the essence of the Christian faith still today and I pray that will continue till Jesus comes again!

Reformation Courage

screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-9-02-35-pmOctober 31 is the 499th anniversary of the Reformation, observed this Sunday. The blessing of the Reformation is the return of a distracted church to the truth of Christianity that eternal salvation is a free gift of God’s grace, through faith in Christ our Lord. Here’s a brief summary:

  • In the late 15thcentury the Catholic Church was afflicted by internal corruption.
  • The sale of “indulgences,” raised money to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
  • Indulgences made people believe deceased loved ones could be released from purgatory.
  • The sales slogan was: “When a coin in the coffer clings, a soul from purgatory springs.”
  • Onto this scene arrived a troubled man named Martin Luther.
  • Luther saw God as a God of justice and was tormented by fears over unresolved sin and guilt.
  • In a thunderstorm during which his traveling companion was killed by a bolt of lightning, Luther exclaimed, “Save me, St. Anne. I will become a monk!”
  • He survived, became a monk, but could find no peace with God through his own effort.
  • Luther’s discovery of God’s grace came from Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
  • Also Romans 1:16-17: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…The righteous shall live by faith.”
  • What happened next was an act of courage, motivated by the truth Luther had discovered.
  • He boldly spoke truth to power by posting his 95 theses, intended as an invitation for debate on topics of faith and church practice.
  • Pressure was placed on him to retract his criticism of church belief and practice.
  • He refused to do so and was threatened with excommunication from the Catholic Church.
  • Asked to retract his words, Luther stated: “Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.”
  • Ultimately, Luther was excommunicated for refusing to retract his newfound beliefs.
  • Thus began what is known as the Protestant Reformation.

My Reformation question, to you and to myself, is this: If we were to conclude that a teaching or practice of the church was not based on clear passages of Scripture or was mandated by the church but not commanded by Holy Scripture or was not allowed by the church but not forbidden by Scripture, would we have the courage to speak our conviction?

Thank God for the Reformation courage Luther displayed in doing just that nearly 500 years ago!

Reformation Day

"Luther Before the Diet of Worms" by Anton von Werner, 1877 Credit: Wikipedia

“Luther Before the Diet of Worms” by Anton von Werner, 1877
Credit: Wikipedia

Today is Reformation Day, observed and honored in Christian churches around the world. The primary focus is the work of Martin Luther, born November 10, 1483, in Eisleben, Germany. Luther spent his early years in relative anonymity as a monk and scholar but went on to become one of Western history’s most significant figures.

On October 31, 1517, Luther gained notoriety when he wrote a document attacking the Catholic Church’s corrupt practice of selling “indulgences” to absolve sin and nailed it to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. His “95 Theses” propounded two primary beliefs—that the Bible is the central religious authority and that humans receive salvation only by faith and not by works. His speaking and writing catalyzed the Protestant Reformation.

On November 9, 1518, Pope Leo X condemned Luther’s writings as conflicting with the teachings of the Church. Later, in July of 1520, Pope Leo issued a papal bull (public decree) concluding that Luther’s propositions were heretical and gave Luther 120 days to recant in Rome. Luther refused to recant, and on January 3, 1521, Pope Leo excommunicated Luther from the Catholic Church.

On April 17, 1521 Luther appeared before the Diet of Worms (this term has nothing to do with culinary mattersJ) in Germany. Refusing again to recant, Luther concluded his testimony the next day, April 18, 1521, with the courageous statement:

“Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.”

Frankly, for a number of reasons, I often ponder whether the world and church are long overdue for a new Reformation! Much has changed in nearly 500 years. Authority concentrated in the hands of leaders who pursue power and crave control does not serve the church well!

Renewal and reformation will occur only if and when humble, courageous servant leaders, lay and clergy alike, pave the way for a return to the primary purpose of the church. The heart of the Gospel, God’s grace in Christ, has life changing power! That message must be proclaimed clearly, unfettered by trappings and traditionalisms that hinder its impact!

So today while the world observes Halloween, we Lutheran Christians join members of other Protestant denominations in thanking God for Martin Luther’s insight, courage and conviction. In doing so we remember things as they were and envision things as they might and ought to be!