Gracious Lord, we are grateful for your amazing message, meant for each of us, of profound inner peace and personal freedom under you, due to the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ! We don't deserve it, but because we have freely chosen to live under you and your eternal kingdom, and because of your amazing grace, we have confidence for this day and the assurance of eternal life in the world to come. We are your thankful people and we praise your holy name! Guide us into safe pasture and provide according to your divine plan. In the process may we be kind and loving to other human beings. In Jesus' name, Amen
Message - Reformation Day
For those who share "lives of faith" in the God of Israel, the 31st of October is not primarily Halloween.
He advanced in his learning to become a doctor of theology and a favorite professor at the university. He did not plan to become famous by doing so. His intention was to discuss and argue points of church practice and faith that would address great errors in the larger church, at least, in Europe. There was no greater scholar of the Holy Bible in his day.
"...for though we live in the world, we do not wage war the way the world does...the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world...on the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds...we demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ..." 2 Corinthians 10:3-5
To accommodate pagan traditions within the Christian faith, Pope Gregory III designated the following day, November 1st, as All Saints' Day...so that a non-Christian holiday would be accompanied by something similar, honoring those who had died in the Christian faith. In 43 AD the Romans conquered the Celtic areas of northern Europe and imposed Rome's religion upon Celtic faith.
October 31st, called FERALIA, in remembrance of Roman dead, and November 1st, called POMONA, honoring the harvest of crops and human souls, were combined into an imposed festival for the Celts. One of the fruits of the harvest were apples. The custom of "dunking for apples" that we still do at Halloween was an ongoing favorite custom with the people.
There had been a multitude of remarkable believers before his time who desired reform in the Christian Church. Among them, over the years and decades, were Francis of Assisi, Gregorio Cortese, Reginald Pole, Gasparo Contarini, John Wycliffe, Francisco Ximenes, Erasmus Desiderius, Jan Hus, among others.
Hus was burned at the stake one hundred years before Luther. Their calling out of unacceptable teachings and practices had all ended in great persecution and death. John Wycliffe simply desired that his people have the Bible translated into the language of the people. Martin Luther was saved remarkably by his ruler, Frederick the Wise, and even more so, by the invention of the printing press. It is interesting for me that in this year of 2020 AD, Roman Catholic scholars of the period declare that the Reformation was necessary, but not Protestantism. Also, in our post-modern times, Pope Benedict XVI declared, "Luther was right!", a Roman Catholic Pontiff---more a scholar than a politician.
We have to see these times within the course of world history, not just the history of the Christian Church.
The basic period of time under consideration is from 1517 AD to precisely 1648 AD. Pause for a moment to consider the times...to wit..."Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492"...the New World was discovered by Europeans. Between these two dates, the entire world (from, at least, Ireland to India) at the time had fallen into disorder everywhere and an entirely new world order, system, and configuration came into being by 1648, and especially, within the year of 1648.
The Renaissance, the Reformation, the complete dismantling of the political landscape of Europe, and the establishment of an European empire in North America and South America was taking place. The Spanish and the Portuguese had established "spheres of interest" in the Americas and in the Asian subcontinent --- and as far away as the Philippines. Martin Luther had translated the Bible into German by 1545. The English Crown under King James I produced the first Bible written in the English language (revised) by 1611 AD (you guessed it, The King James Version). That, eventually, led to other events within nine years...the Pilgrims heading off in the Mayflower for Massachusetts, by 1620, as a result of that translation. The first American Thanksgiving was celebrated in the New World on October of 1621. Although Columbus had been involved with African slavery as early as the 1490s, the first African enslaved persons arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619.
WHAT BASIC CHRISTIAN FAITH IS ALL ABOUT --- WHAT TRUE "CATHOLIC" FAITH IS ALL ABOUT
Meanwhile, the powerful idea of faith structure based upon one's personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ alone...the Holy Bible as the sole ultimate authority for believers...and the community of faith, the Church, not primarily an institution lording itself over the flock, but a loving community for guidance and instruction in the faith, became a model resulting from the original Reformation started under Dr. Luther.
"..The obscure monk in Wittenberg, Germany, Dr. Martin Luther had literally become world famous.."
After a little more than five hundred years, of course, things again have changed. Noticing that I wear a Lutheran clerical collar regularly in San Francisco, and that it looks different from a Roman clerical collar, I'm asked all the time..."Why does your collar look different somehow from a Catholic priest?"
I tell them that I wear a Lutheran collar because I'm a Lutheran pastor, but even more so, because I prefer it." The response is, "Oh, do you worship Martin Luther King, Jr.?" My comment, "No, I don't, but I admire him and I've been influenced by his witness to our common Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!" I continue, "You see, Martin Luther King's father was also a Martin Luther King, and his father, sensing that his son would be much like the Dr. Martin Luther of Germany way back in the 16th Century, named him after that great reformer." Again I continue to bear testimony, "I believe in the Triune God of Martin Luther King, Jr. --- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit --- I'll like to invite you to receive him, just as we have, as your personal Lord and Savior. There's no hitch and there is no obligation to do so...This is the best offer, I'll bet, you've received today!!!"
WHAT DR. MARTIN LUTHER TAUGHT AND WHY IT IS IMPORTANT FOR ALL WHO ENBRACE FAITH
Please note that I am not a denominationalist. I do not declare myself to be aligned with or connected with the Christian Church for any other reason than IT IS THE TRUTH for me. When other elements enter into the picture that do not align with the Scriptures, I move on. When I present the theology of Dr. Martin Luther I don't do so because I am from a Lutheran background. I do so because of the scope and power of the material at hand as the man presents it. God gave him a powerful mind, but also an incredible ability to understand the insight of what was recorded in Scripture as DIVINE REVELATION. At the same time, I acknowledge that Luther was not a perfect man. I don't put him on a pedestal---Luther also had another side...but so do I. Therefore, I will focus in upon the great insights of the man because of his love of ...and giftedness in...interpreting the Holy Bible. It's a shame contemporary people don't know his anointed work.
Martin Luther was a person saturated with feelings of unworthiness. Like many of us he had a choice to make and he made it constantly. He could have focused on the good things about himself, or he could have emphasized the bad things about himself. He chose, as Darth Vader to focus in on "the dark side". [Pardon sneaking in a little "Star Wars" here.] At one point, his monastery mentor, Fr. Staupitz, directed him to get into the Scriptures, and in the process, Luther became a real master of Latin, and more importantly, Hebrew and Koine Greek (the language of the New Testament). As he began to master the text of the Bible, Luther recognized a recurrent theme in both Old Testament and New Testament. Let me show you what stood out in his heart and mind, being a person overwhelmed with feelings of unworthiness, also guilt and shame:
"...Abram believed the Lord and He credited it to him as righteousness..." Genesis 15:6. Luther thought to himself, so where is the emphasis upon earning the fact or the reality that you are actually 'right with God'..."
Don't you have to do something? Doesn't God require that you earn that status of being righteous?
"...the righteous will live by faith..." Habakkuk 2:4b. Luther notices two things about this book of the Bible and this obscure minor Hebrew prophet. First of all, this seemingly insignificant, rather short verse, becomes the "spring-board" for the entire theological framework of the New Testament. Second of all, once again, the emphasis is not upon "doing"...it's simply upon placing trust, not in what I can do, but what God has done for me. Okay...so Moses makes the point in Genesis...and now Habakkuk makes the point here...
But for Luther this was still not convincing enough...true students of the Bible cross-reference until the cows come home...I'm going to keep looking to make sure there is continuity here even into the New Testament.
(The question also came up...Are there really Old Testament and New Testament or just "one testament"?
It seemed then that "Marcion of Sinope" back in the 2nd century didn't get it right about getting rid of OT.)
Saint Paul's "Letter to the Romans" eventually becomes the center of Luther's understanding of Christian faith and our personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. As he turns back to Romans 3:28, "...for we maintain that a person is justified by faith APART from the law..." Luther recalls a similar verse he had just read in Romans 1:17, "...for in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith FROM FIRST TO LAST, just as it is written: '...the righteous will live by faith...'" First of all, Luther affirms that it is not about earning God's favor, but rather, as a human being, living in the assurance that when we place our faith and confidence in the Lord, we don't have to worry about falling short, no matter what may befall us. To Luther it was a fool-proof way of living a confident, happy, joyful life. Luther pauses and then remembers, "Hey, I'll be...that's found in Habakkuk!"
Somehow, down the line, in my life, I got the idea that when God the Father looks upon us...He's not going to see John's or Mary's or Tom's face...He will see the face of Christ Jesus in our face and say to us, "Well done, my good and faithful servant!"
Yesterday and today were reported as being the most devastating in the months of the present pandemic.
I have missed you and I have missed worship together in these trying times. I leave you with this...
"I thank God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now...being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus...It is right for me to feel this way about all of you since I have you in my heart." Philippians 1:3-7a