- Written by Pastor Shawn Nettleton Pastor Shawn Nettleton
- Created: 02 October 2014 02 October 2014
Moving to the Midwest to attend Concordia Seminary, St. Louis was certainly a change of scenery for someone who grew up in California! One nice thing about living in the Midwest for over a decade was the opportunity to experience the seasons, especially the change of seasons. Shortly after we moved here in March, our next door neighbor called Fort Collins “the city of trees.” Driving around town the last few weeks I have noticed that our move here from the Orland Park area will not cause us to miss out on the beautiful change in colors that the fall season brings!
It is this time of year in our Lutheran heritage that we think about another beautiful change as it happened in the church nearly 500 years ago. This change put the spotlight back on Jesus Christ alone as Savior, or, as the reformers put it, sola Christus (“Christ alone”). The Middle Ages can be characterized as a time of spiritual darkness that put a veil over the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The obscuring of the Gospel left many unsure about their standing before God and burdened by the heavy yoke of the law. Change was desperately needed!
Even before the likes of Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon, men such as John Wyclif (1330–1384) and John Hus (1372–1415) knew that change in the church was needed. They, like Luther, saw problems with the abuse of indulgences and the papal office. But eventually, Luther and others put their finger on the essential problem that plagued the church—suppressing the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The heart and soul of the Lutheran Reformation was its fight to proclaim the true Gospel as found in the Word of God.
In an age of spiritual darkness, the Reformers let the Word of God speak for itself! In fact, Luther boldly and rightly proclaimed, “I did nothing; the Word did everything … I simply taught, preached and wrote God's Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it … I did nothing. I let the Word do its work.”1
The Lutheran Reformation fought to unleash the Word of God and the Gospel and let the Word do its work! And, as they say, the rest is history. That same Word of God seeks to do its work in our lives today as well! Sometimes that work brings comfort and peace, other times that work brings change, seasonal and beautiful change.
The change the Word seeks to bring in our lives is, of course, not about getting out of bed on a different side or driving a different way to work. Its work is not about change for the sake of change. The change the Word seeks to bring in our lives is Godly change. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and marrow and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Seasonal change brings with it things that are not as welcome as others, such as raking up dead leaves and colder weather. In a similar way, God's Word seeks to produce things in us that are not always welcome to our human nature, but essential for real change, such as self reflection, honesty with ourselves and confession of sins. And just as those dead leaves must fall to the ground for new, living and beautiful leaves to appear in the spring, so, too, God's Word seeks to cut us to our hearts, convict us of sin and bring us to confession that His Word might also bring forgiveness and absolution in Christ.
Thus, in Christ and in Christ alone, whence where there was only sin and death, now there is new life and salvation. God seeks to unleash His Word and Gospel in our lives, to let His Word do its work! This Word works seasonal (daily) change and it is a beautiful thing.
- Martin Luther, “Eight Sermons at Wittenberg” in Luther's Works (Concordia Publishing House, 1968), 77–78