- Written by Pastor Shawn Nettleton Pastor Shawn Nettleton
- Created: 23 February 2017 23 February 2017
The word “exile” conjures up images of mass deportation, refugee camps, prisoners of war, displacement and post-traumatic stress disorder. After the invasion and destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BC, Judah’s exiles lived in a world that had been shattered into a million pieces. “The exiles had no earthly king, no temple, no royal city, no land, no liturgy, no sacrifice, no hope, and what looked like no future. And so they had no song to sing.” 1
Gathered by the waters of Babylon, these exiles lamented: “How shall we sing the Lord’s songs in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:4). Even worse, they wondered and questioned: Is God for real? If so, does He really care about us? Has He completely forgotten about us? What does our future hold? Will our lives ever change? Living in exilic hopelessness and despair, God’s people wondered if the Lord would ever free them and bring them home!
Do you ever feel this way? Does it look as though your current problems are more than you can bear? Do you find yourself asking: Why did this happen? Why did God allow it? Is there any justice or order in the world? Will God really deliver on what He said?
It is to these very questions, worries and doubts that our Lord speaks in Isaiah 40 – 55. To those broken by their own sin or sins of others, Yahweh speaks to exiles words of comfort and hope! Everything that was wrong will be made right again! The Lord will raise up His Servant. He will be wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5). Through Him, the Lord will renew all things! Through Him, He will bring His people home in peace!
This is why Isaiah can call the exiles to “Sing to the Lord a new song” (Isaiah 42:10a) and creation to “Sing for joy … for the Lord has comforted His people and will have compassion on His afflicted” (Isaiah 49:13). The rich and deep promises of God in Isaiah 40 – 55 speak comfort and hope to our own exile; to our own questions, worries and doubts. God has an answer, a Servant who has come to bring us home forever! Rejoicing in the Servant of the Lord, Jesus Christ, we will be “Singing with the Exiles” this Lenten season. Join us on Wednesday’s as we learn from Isaiah to walk the Lenten way to the cross and to the empty tomb. God promises to turn our weeping into joy and present pain into an endless Alleluia!
Lenten Midweek Series
March 8: “He Only Has Eyes for You” (Isaiah 43:1 – 7)
March 15: “Marked” (Isaiah 44:1 – 5)
March 22: “Breaking Down the Gates” (Isaiah 45:1 – 8)
March 29: “Get Out!” (Isaiah 48:17 – 22)
April 5: “One Little Word Can Fell Him” (Isaiah 49:1 – 6)
Meals served at Noon and 5:45 PM
- R. Reed Lessing, Isaiah 40 – 55: Concordia Commentary (Concordia Publishing House, 2011), xiv.
- Written by Pastor Shawn Nettleton Pastor Shawn Nettleton
- Created: 20 January 2017 20 January 2017
As we enter into 2017, the year of the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation, our Sunday morning Adult Bible Class will be studying some of the books of the Bible and other documents that were important to the rediscovery and reclaiming of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
As a young professor of theology at the University of Wittenberg, Martin Luther began to lecture on the Psalms sometime in 1513. Not only did Luther begin his academic carrier lecturing on the Psalms, but it remained one of his most cherished and loved books of the Bible.
Luther considered the Psalter a gem, a treasure within the treasure book itself. He believed that the entire message of the Bible was summarized in this one little book. In his “Preface to Psalter,” Luther writes, “The Psalter ought to be a precious and beloved book, if for no other reason that this: it promises Christ’s death and resurrection so clearly — and pictures His kingdom and the condition and nature of all Christendom — that it might well be called a little Bible. In it is comprehended most beautifully and briefly everything that is in the entire Bible.” 1
The “sweet fragrance” of this “little Bible” gives us insight into the lives of the saints, “how they spoke with God and prayed … in great earnestness and on the most important matters.” 2 The Psalter lays before us the very words, deeds, hearts and souls of the saints; how they acted and responded when in danger, distress, or need. The book is “replete with evidences of the human situation with all its complexities.” 3 Wherever we are in life, we can find ourselves in this book.
“A human heart is like a ship on a wild sea, driven by the storm winds from the four corners of the world. Here it is stuck with fear and worry about impending disaster; there comes grief and sadness because of present evil. Here breathes a breeze of hope and of anticipated happiness; there blows security and joy in present blessings. These storm winds teach us to speak with earnestness, to open the heart and pour out what lies at the bottom of it.” 4 The Psalms speak amidst every kind of storm wind; they give us the words of joy, praise, thanksgiving, sorrow, lament that flow from the bottom of the heart to God in prayer.
The Psalms are not then simply prayers of the saints gone before us, but a prayer book for all the saints. For “everyone, in whatever situation he may be, finds in that situation psalms and words that fit his case, that suit him as if they were put there just for his sake, so that he could not put it better himself.” 5
This in and of itself makes the Psalter unique and valuable. However, the Psalms are more than a mirror of the soul and a guide to prayer, they also point us to their fulfillment in Christ. The Psalms proclaim Christ and His work for us! This little gem of the Bible gives us every aspect of the Christian life and Christ Himself. As Luther concluded, “in a word, if you would see the holy Christian Church painted in living color and shape, comprehended in one little picture, then take up the Psalter. There you have a fine, bright, pure mirror that will show you what Christendom is.” 6
Join us on Sunday mornings as we dig into this little gem of the Bible!
- Martin Luther, “Preface to the Psalter (1545)” in Luther’s Works, Vol. 35 (Muhlenberg Press, 1960), 254.
- Ibid., 254 – 255.
- C. Hassel Bullock, Encountering The Book of Psalms (Baker Academic, 2001), 15.
- Luther, 255.
- Ibid., 256.
- Ibid., 256 – 266.
- Written by Pastor Shawn Nettleton Pastor Shawn Nettleton
- Created: 02 December 2016 02 December 2016
As we approach the celebration of our Lord’s nativity, we are again and again reminded of the profound mystery of His incarnation. This fundamental Christian teaching, that lies at the heart of our faith, defies our human reason and understanding. Yet, as Martin Luther once put it so well, “could we comprehend this mystery by human reason, there would be no faith.” 1
That the Creator of the universe chose to come down, take on our very flesh and blood, and dwell with us reveals the depths of His love for us! Our comfort and joy of the season rest in this very truth, that our Creator was lying in a manger. Nobody captures the importance and necessity of this profound mystery with simplicity and clarity better than Martin Luther. Luther’s 1532 sermon on The Annunciation proclaims in a masterful way the heart of Christ’s incarnation and depths of God’s love for us. May this sermon bless your Advent and Christmas reflection, prayer and worship.
The Day of the Annunciation to Mary 2
by Dr. Martin Luther, 1532
Our worship today commemorates the conception of our Lord Jesus Christ. To honor, praise and give thanks for this event, we want to consider this Gospel, so that this article of faith may always abide in our church. St. Luke describes this event as follows:
And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.Luke 1:26 – 38
The reason for this festival is that it is an article of our faith: “I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary.” Women call it “becoming pregnant;” the article of faith calls it “conceived.” Mary’s impregnating or conception was by the agency of the Holy Spirit. This article of faith must forever remain a part of Christian doctrine, a truly excellent, wonderful article of faith, against which, first of all, the devil contends, and then, also, all those who side with the devil. We Christians are called upon to believe and to confess a teaching which by the world is considered to be rank foolishness.
From the standpoint of reason, it does indeed appear to be a foolish concept for Christians to believe and confess. Women, no matter how high or low their station, become pregnant in only one way, namely, as is written in Genesis 1:27 – 28: “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. And God blessed them and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” But with Mary, God made an exception, something that had never happened before in the world, or would ever again happen as long as the world endures. She conceived a child and became a mother not by virtue of a man, but by the Holy Spirit. Preposterous to human reason and to every thinking person! And the more learned and wise they are, the more foolish they find it that Christians believe and confess this, something so totally unacceptable and impossible to human reason!
In German we are accustomed to say, If I do as other people do, I won’t end up a fool. It’s a rule of thumb commonly accepted as making good sense. However, in the matter of confession of the articles of faith we need to shove the proverb into the comer and say, If you’re going to be a Christian, you will perforce believe and do things which other people do not believe or do. Yes, I’ll have to appear odd and strange to other people who are vexed and offended because of my faith. That’s the situation here. I’m to believe that Mary, a virgin, is pregnant, and will become a mother, but no soul on earth knew about it, only she. This sounds foolish and impossible … Nevertheless, it is true: Mary was pregnant, became a mother, and yet remained a chaste virgin! She is a true to life virgin, not a stone or wooden statue, but a human born virgin. Just as other mortals have flesh and blood and are mortal, so, she too, has flesh and blood and is a mortal person, the same as any other woman. Yet God accomplished something unique with her, that she bore a son and truly became a mother. She carried Him, gave birth, and nursed Him; yet no one knew the circumstances except she alone.
Only we Christians believe this article of faith, and we are considered simpletons and fools by the world for it. For our belief, the Turks and the Jews mock and laugh at us, as do also the wiseacres of the world. But, then, all articles of our faith seem ridiculous and foolish to our reason. The same is true for this article. The angel’s announcement seems ridiculous and foolish, that Mary should conceive and bear a son who would be not only a true man, but also true God. The world looks upon us Christians as naive fools for believing that Mary would be this child’s true mother and yet remain a chaste virgin … Of the essence here, therefore, were the words of the angel’s announcement: “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call His name Jesus.”
But of even greater significance is the angel’s further word: “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end.” With these words in the picture, the whole world, heaven and earth, become too narrow for this child’s domain. This is all above and beyond the laws of nature and the limits of our reasoning power. How is this possible, our reason asks, that this child should be called the Son of the Highest and should at the same time be the natural son of a poor mortal virgin? But the angel announced it and we Christians believe it; Mary was not only a chaste virgin, but conceived and became mother of a truly human son. But this child, whom Mary conceived, delivered at birth, cared for, and nurtured, like any mother does her child, is, and is called, the true Son of God. This, above all things, rocks the world’s wisdom and particularly riles up the Jews. And who knows what the devil will stir up against this article of the faith by means of the fanatical sects, if the world goes on …
Therefore, let us comprehend the full significance of this article, firmly resisting reason’s objections and listening to what God’s Word says. This article is well documented in both the Old and New Testament; so it must certainly be valid. Were it right to do so, I could be as much a smart aleck and deride the article just as sharply as our opponents do, or some other egghead among us who could outstrip them in their sophistries. They figure no one can analyze something as keenly as they do. They take us to be stupid numskulls. Fools though we be, nonetheless, we understand their stupidity which they consider to be great wisdom. Our response to them is: What you consider utter foolishness, we believe, to the praise of our Lord God and our salvation, and in defiance of our wiseacre opponents. I, too, know how to count the fingers on my hand and figure out that no woman, no virgin, according to the fixed order of things in nature, becomes pregnant on her own. It would not only be stupid, but wicked and irrational, for a woman, or virgin to say that she had conceived on her own. But we have a sovereign Lord over us, God in heaven, who attests to this virgin that she conceived and became a mother without the agency of a man.
God thus demonstrated that He could create humans in more ways than one. In the beginning He did not create man and woman simultaneously and in the same way. He was not like some fencing master who teaches his students all he knows and then collects his fees when the lessons are over. Rather, God remains Master and Creator forever and ever, and we will never exhaust the limits of His skill, power, and wisdom …
In other words, God chose here not to follow the usual order of generation, but provide a new way. A virgin would conceive. This would be the sign and wonder. Nevertheless, His arrangement is half of the normal order, in that the child would be born of a young maiden …
True, we Christians might say that according to reason it seems ridiculous that a virgin should conceive, become a mother and give birth to a son who would not only be her natural son, but also God’s true Son. But here I must shove human reason and wisdom under the bench and not listen to what reason has to say, but what God in His Word has to say. For He who is in heaven above, Creator of all wisdom, surely knows a bit more than all of human reason. He who placed the eyes in my head and your head certainly sees more than you and I see, as Psalm 94:9 states: “He that planted the ear, shall He not hear? He that formed the eye, shall He not see?” The Creator must be greater, more discerning, more wise than the creature.
That is why we should be held captive by God’s Word and not try to speculate beyond it. God announces in His Word that this child is true God and true man, born from eternity by the Father, and born on earth of a true, human lineage, out of the body of a woman, like any other child, from a mother who nurtures Him like any other mother, except that this conception and birth take place in a supernatural way and this son is born of a virgin. We must envelop ourselves in this Word of God, because with our reason we cannot fathom it. Wiseacres literally drown when they try to unravel the miracle with their reasoning.
The announcement of the angel as our Creed states is: “I believe in Jesus Christ … conceived by the Holy Ghost,” in other words, I believe that the Virgin Mary conceived a son, who is also God’s only Son. By whom did she become pregnant? There was no one, but herself. She stands alone, without a man and no one has acted in the conception other than the Holy Spirit …
Now, Mary reasoned with the angel as to how this could come to pass. In those days maidenhood was not particularly esteemed . The angel, however, approaches Mary and very gently tells her that she has found favor with God and man. He brings her the tidings that she should conceive and bear a son who shall be called the Son of God. In turmoil, she thinks, I am but a poor Cinderella, and I should become a mother and bear a son when I have had no relationship with a man? Who is going to believe me that I conceived on my own? She also feels that these tidings of the angel place her in danger of death. She wonders, too, when it becomes evident that she is pregnant and people ask about it, how will I then prove that I had no relationship with a man? The truth is, if the Lord God had not placed special protection over Mary, she would have been burned at the stake or stoned. Under the law of Moses, a woman who became pregnant with the child’s father unknown was to be burned at the stake or stoned. So, because the normal sequence of events were to be suspended in this conception, Mary was afraid, and she asked what would happen to her.
Thereupon, the angel sums it altogether for Mary and says, If you try to analyze it from the standpoint of reason you could never conceive, or if you conceived, the penalty under the Law would be death. But the great difference in your case is that “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee.” In other words, for you the Holy Spirit is the bridegroom, by whose excellent power and working you will conceive “and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee.” Almighty God will see to it that neither the devil nor the entire world will avail to fault you. You will become a mother and bear a son, but only God on high and the Holy Spirit will really understand how. Therefore, let it be our Lord God’s concern in bringing it about. With Him in control, who is there that can thwart His action? What power on earth can hinder God Almighty? … Do not be afraid, therefore, for nothing will harm you.
That day, that moment when Mary assented to the angel Gabriel’s announcement, Christ was conceived. In that hour when she said, “Be it unto me according to thy word,” she conceived and became the mother of God; and Christ, therewith, became true God and true man in one person. Even though He is a tiny fetus, at that moment He is both God and man in Mary’s womb, an infant, and Mary is the mother of God.
The Turks and the Jews make fun of this article of faith and feel that they have excellent reason to deride it. For that matter, we could banter about it as well as they. But as Christians, we must firmly hold onto this article of faith and never waver. From the beginning of time it has been prophesied that God’s Son would become man and that His mother would be a virgin. The first prophecy given Adam and Eve soon after the fall (Genesis 3:15) stated: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shall bruise his heel.” God does not say the seed of the man, but rather the seed of the woman. Therefore, the mother of this serpent crusher must be a virgin. Later the patriarchs and the prophets also prophesied of this, until finally the beloved apostles proclaimed it to all the world. We have been baptized into this faith and are called Christians because we believe and confess it to be true. Let us, therefore, persevere unwaveringly in this faith. And if, as time goes on, sectarian spirits deny it, let us take a staunch stand in behalf of it.
This article is really the bottom line. Christ wanted His beginning to be like ours, but without sin, because He wanted to sanctify us wholly. We begin life in sin, we are conceived in sin, born in sin, no matter whether we be emperor, king, prince, rich or poor; every human being is conceived in sin according to Psalm 51:5. Only Christ the distinction and the honor to have been conceived by the Holy Ghost’s power. Since from our conception we are sinful, we are people whose flesh and blood and everything about us are soiled by sin, as indeed we see in ourselves; or when we look at those around us in the world, be set by evil desire, pride, multiple devils and miserable unbelief. Thus we are conceived and born … Christ could not be subject to such impure sinful conception and birth. He, indeed, was a genuinely true, natural human being, but not conceived or born in sin as all other descendants of Adam. That is why His mother had to be a virgin whom no man had touched, so that He would not be born under the curse, but rather conceived and born without sin, so that the devil had no right or power over Him. Only the Holy Spirit was present to bring about the conception in her virgin body. Mother Mary, like us, was born in sin of sinful parents, but the Holy Spirit covered her, sanctified and purified her so that this child was born of flesh and blood, but not with sinful flesh and blood. The Holy Spirit permitted the Virgin Mary to remain a true, natural human being of flesh and blood, just as we. However, He warded off sin from her flesh and blood so that she became the mother of a pure child, not poisoned by sin as we are.
Thus what the angel spake came true: “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest.” For in that moment when she conceived, she was a holy mother filled with the Holy Spirit and her fruit is a holy, pure fruit, at once true God and truly man, in one person. In time, then, this godly mother gave birth to God’s Son, a genuine man, but without any sin. Undoubtedly, his blood was red, his flesh, white; he suckled at his mother’s breasts, ate porridge, cried and slumbered like any other child; but his flesh and blood were holy and pure. He is a holy person, the son of a pure virgin and God’s Son, true God and man in one person.
On this day we preach about this article of faith, that our Lord Jesus Christ is true God and true man in one person conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin. It is an article of faith that provides unique comfort against the devil … He did not become God and an angel, but God and man. He does not assume the nature of angels, but that of Abraham’s seed, a human being, flesh and blood. That is why He is called Immanuel, God with us; not just because He is around and with us, living among us and helping us. That would be well and good, but He became like us, of our nature. He assumed flesh and blood and bone like us, yet without sin, which is our lot. The devil hates to hear this joyful tiding, that our flesh and blood is God’s Son, yes, God Himself, who reigns in heaven over everything. Formerly, each Sunday, we used to sing Nicea’s confession of faith, formulated at the Council of Nicea, in the words: Et homo factus est, “And He became man,” and everyone fell to his knees. That was an excellent, commendable custom and it might well still be practiced, so that we might thank God from the heart that Christ assumed human nature and bestowed such great and high honor upon us, allowing His Son to become man.
It almost seems as though God is at enmity with the world. Present conditions are so shameful all around us in the world, as God allows murderous mobs and rabble, so much violence and so much misfortune to prevail, so that we might think God is only Lord and God of the angels and that He has forgotten about mankind. But here in our text we see that He befriends us humans like no other creatures, in the very closest relationship, and, in turn, we humans have a closer relationship with God than with any creature. Sun and moon are not as close to us as is God, for He comes to us in our own flesh and blood. God not only rules over us, not only lives in us, but personally became a human being.
This is the grace which we celebrate today, thanking God that He has cleansed our sinful conception and birth through His holy conception and birth, and removed the curse from us and blessed us. By nature our conception and birth are flawed and laden with sin. In contrast, Christ’s conception and birth were holy and pure. Through His holy conception and birth our sinful nature, flesh, and blood are blessed and made holy. It is on this basis that we are baptized, so that by means of God’s Word, the sacraments, and the Holy Spirit we might have the fruit of His holy conception and birth. May we always thank Him for His grace and never become weary or surfeited in hearing and learning this. Amen.
- Martin Luther, “Third Christmas Sermon (Hebrews 1)” in Complete Sermons of Martin Luther, Vol. 3, ed. Eugene F. A. Klug (Baker Books), 2:173.
- Martin Luther, “The Day of Annunciation to Mary (Luther’s House Postils)” in Complete Sermons of Martin Luther, Vol. 7, ed. Eugene F. A. Klug (Baker Books), 284 – 293.
- Written by Pastor Shawn Nettleton Pastor Shawn Nettleton
- Created: 26 October 2016 26 October 2016
Almighty and everlasting God, You knit together Your faithful people of all times and places into one holy communion, the mystical body of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Grant us so to follow Your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living that, together with them, we may come to the unspeakable joys You have prepared for those who love You; through Jesus Christ, our Lord who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. AmenCollect of the Day for All Saints’ Day
The collect (prayer) for All Saints Day reminds us that we are blessed by the example of faith and “godly living” of Christians now sainted. The prayer also encourages us to follow them as they followed our Lord Jesus. In a terrific little devotional book titled Celebrating the Saints, Rev. William Weedon reminds us of the value of remembering and even celebrating the saints who have gone before us.
As we have noted in our Sunday morning Bible class, the Lutheran Reformation was not a radical reformation. The Lutheran Reformers did not throw the baby out with the bath water (even though many 20th Century Lutherans were guilty of this). There were, of course, abuses with respect to saints that had crept into the church which needed to be condemned and corrected. For example, as Weedon notes, “Nowhere … do the Sacred Scriptures provide a command to invoke the saints, a promise about this being pleasing to God, or an example of anyone ever invoking the saints.” 1 The idea that we need anyone else as a mediator or intercessor other than our Lord Jesus is absolutely preposterous and utterly blasphemous! “Still, despite the abuses, Lutheran Christians knew and confessed that there was a rightful place in the life of the congregation and of the individual Christian for the remembrance of the saints.” 2
The Lutheran Reformers gave three good reasons for retaining the celebration of Saint’s Days and All Saints’. First, it gives us the opportunity to thank God for His mercy shown to those who have gone before us in the faith. Secondly, our faith should be strengthened as we recall God’s mercy and grace shown to these saints as to us. And thirdly, as we remember the saints, we are encouraged to imitate their faith and good works according to our own callings even as John reminds us “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord… that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” (Rev. 14:13).
There is value in remembering the faith and lives of those for whom Jesus was also “their captain in the well-fought fight.”< 3 We can find strength, courage and comfort in their lives, even as we give thanks for God’s gracious working in them. I will ever remember and be encouraged by my sainted grandmother kneeling at her bedside every night for prayer, her gracious concern and care for others that was always in thanksgiving for the love she knew and received in Christ. Over the years, I have been encouraged by so many who have displayed rock solid faith in the midst of suffering.
Weedon’s recent work, Celebrating the Saints, offers a devotion for each of the saints on the church calendar found in the Lutheran Service Book (pgs. xii – xiii), including Isaac, Hannah, Noah, Augustine of Hippo, Johann Sebastian Bach, St. Patrick, St. Stephen and so many more. It also offers devotion for the days and season of the Church year. This splendid devotional resource can be used for table or personal devotions in the home and I recommend it to you.
As we remember the multitude of witnesses past and present, we do so with our eyes fixed where they fixed theirs — on the Lamb of God whose blood washes away our sins. For as we remember and celebrate the stories of the saints, “we realize that we are always and only celebrating the love that shone forth from our Lord’s cross.” 4
Blessed All Saints’ Day,
- William C. Weedon, Celebrating the Saints (Concordia Publishing House, 2016), 7
- Ibid., 7
- Lutheran Service Book, “For All the Saints” (Concordia Publishing House, 2006) 677, stz. 2
- William C. Weedon, Celebrating the Saints (Concordia Publishing House, 2016), 8
- Written by Pastor Shawn Nettleton Pastor Shawn Nettleton
- Created: 20 September 2016 20 September 2016
Attending a worship service in your own language, the freedom to have and even read your own Bible, and the teaching, the message, the truth, the comfort that you are saved by Christ alone, through faith alone, by grace alone would not have been available to you 500 years ago. What started on the Eve of All Saints Day, 1517, with Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses against indulgences not only greatly impacted Western culture, but sent shock waves through the Church that would change it forever!
While the Protestant Reformation effected and changed the economic, political and social landscape of sixteen-century Europe, it was at the heart a religious reformation primarily concerned with the pure and clear teaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
What began as very personal matter — Luther’s struggle for a right relationship to God — became a public movement in the Church. Luther’s rediscovery of a “gracious God” in Christ struck a chord with a Church and a people who were thirsting and yearning to be set free from the guilt and burden of their sins!
Of course, exposing and refuting teachings on indulgences, penance, praying to saints, purgatory, and “doing what was in you” for your salvation which were so deeply entrenched in the traditions, ways, and the authority of the Roman Church would not come without a fight. Yet, for Luther and the Reformers the freedom that comes through Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone as proclaimed by Scripture alone was worth the fight!
Even when faced with the threat of being excommunicated from the Church and the very real prospect of death, Luther would not back down as he stood on the Scriptures’ teaching of Christ alone! With his conscience captive to the Word of God, Luther’s brave stand before the Holy Roman Emperor at the Diet of Worms (1521) is seen as one of “the most magnificent scenes of human history.” 1 To this day, Luther is still considered a national hero for the German state. And yet, Luther himself would boldly and candidly argue that the Reformation was not about him, not about any man, or any man against the church or state, but was solely about the God-man Jesus Christ who alone gives true freedom.
To be sure, Luther did not want to start a new church nor see the Western Church eventually splinter into various denominations. He also did not support radical movements such as The Peasants’ War of 1525. Luther simply wanted Scripture’s teaching of Christ to be set free from the shackles of medieval theology and the teachings and practices of the Roman Church that had obscured, distorted and even obliterated His person and work for us!
The 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation is a most significant milestone in Church history. It is a significant anniversary for the church and God’s people. As we embark on this important anniversary, we give thanks to the Lord of the Church for His guiding hand behind a historic movement that unleashed the Gospel of Jesus Christ and has preserved the proclamation of this Good News for nearly half a millennium!
How should a church body, a church and its people remember and celebrate such a significant anniversary? In anticipation of celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Erik Herrmann recently reflected, “As with many big anniversaries questions of relevance will once again arise: Why does the Reformation matter? What was at stake? What was it all about? Was it worth it? Does anything that Luther said or taught have meaning for us today? … As we close in on the 500th Reformation Day such questions will even begin to interest those who have no religious commitment to what took place then.” 2
With these very questions in mind, our Board of Outreach has been hard at work planning an event for our congregation and our community. On Thursday evening, November 3, Rev. Dr. Rod Rosenbladt will be here at Saint John’s to give a special presentation on the ongoing significance and relevance of the Lutheran Reformation. I encourage you not only to join us on November 3, but to invite your friends, relatives and neighbors to join you for this special event. It promises to be a most appropriate event kicking off a year-long celebration of God’s grace to us in Christ!
In Christ Alone,
- Lewis W. Spitz, The Protestant Reformation (Concordia Publishing House, 2001), 69
- Erik H. Herrmann, “Reformation Remembered” (LutheranReformation.org/theology/reformation-remembered/)