Romans 1:16-17-“For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, ‘The one who is righteous will live by faith.’”
Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
We are almost at 501! For me, it’s hard to believe that a year has already passed. At the end of October, we celebrate the 501st anniversary of the Reformation. It occurred to me that I didn’t really tell you about Luther’s story last year. So I had a thought; I think that moving forward, each October, I would like to share another part of Luther’s story. So, I would like to begin with the verse at the heart of Luther’s transformation – Romans 1:17. That verse was the spark that lit the flame of the Reformation. Luther had tried so hard to be a good Christian by entering the monastery and confessing his sins daily, even punishing himself for his sins; but it seemed that the harder he tried, the worse it got.
He became thoroughly depressed and miserable – until one day, he came across these words – “the just (“righteous” in the above translation) shall live by faith.” He realized, in that moment, that it was faith, not good works, that makes us pleasing to God. It is through faith that we are saved, not our good works (Ephesians 2:8- 9). At the heart of Lutheran Theology is this text from Ephesians 2 – That we are saved by grace (alone), through faith (alone) , in Christ Jesus (alone). Good works accompany faith, and demonstrate that faith exists, but they do not provide for or guarantee our salvation. Also, good works are not for God; according to Luther, God does not need them, but our neighbor does. Our faith frees us from worrying about whether or not we are right with God; it frees us to focus on the needs of our neighbors, rather than on ourselves. This discovery by Luther is at the very heart of the Reformation. Luther didn’t want to establish another church, and he certainly didn’t want a church to be named after him. He wondered why anyone would want to name a church after a “filthy, stinking, bag of worms” like him. Originally, “Lutheran” was a derogatory name, it meant “heretic” or “dissident.”
The churches that bear Luther’s name do so because we wish to be identified with the one who made this amazing discovery. There are many different Lutheran church bodies around, with many differences over issues great and small, but all agree that our salvation depends upon the grace and mercy of God, given to us through Word and Sacrament, and received in faith. Just as we did last year, we will celebrate this anniversary moving toward the next mile stone of our denomination. May we continue to celebrate, but also be mindful as to how we are being called in God’s mission. It will be important not to focus on where the church will be in 25 years, rather, how is God calling us to reach out and love our neighbor.
Pr. Paul <><
p.s. – Did you know what Luther said?? "I desire above all things that my name should be concealed, and that none be called by the name of Lutheran; but of Christian. What is Luther? My doctrine is not mine, but Christ's. I was not crucified for any. How comes it to pass, that I, who am but a filthy, stinking bag of worms; that any of the sons of God should be denominated from my name? Away with these schismatical names! Let us be denominated from Christ, from whom alone we have our doctrine."
p.s.s – Did you hear what is happening with Pr. Paul?? My back surgery has been tentatively scheduled for October 11. This is my 7th surgery on my back and will be the part one of a two-part procedure. If all things go well, I will spend a couple of nights in the hospital until drainage tubes can be removed and then I will stay in Denver until I have had my one-week check-up and then return to Cedaredge. Again, if all goes well, I will not be able to drive for 2 weeks and will take on a light schedule upon my return. Thank you so much for all your support. Please know that I covet your prayers.