Within a few short weeks, the Lutheran church will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the nailing of the 95 Thesis on the church at Wittenburg, Germany and the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. My church is planning an outreach celebration next weekend and our pastor will dress like Martin Luther and welcome newcomers to our church. The flavor of the event is in the form of a festival – a fall gathering – a time of fun and getting to know each other.
Martin Luther was a simple man, who struggled deeply with his conscience from little on. He never wanted his followers to be called Lutherans, because the movement was not about him, but about God and the truth of His Word. He preferred that they be called Christians.
Born at a time of renaissance, renewal and restoration were to his advantage, because it allowed him the use of new inventions, like the printing press, to spread his message. Luther had many influential friends as well. All of them played an important part in the Reformation.
When I think of this man, I can’t help but think about my own journey as a Christian. This young lad grew up in the Catholic church and was submitted to the wages of sin on a daily basis. His conscience ate away at his soul for many years, causing him to enter a monastery in hopes of finally achieving peace through his own sacrifice. He would pray for hours, fast and beat himself to a bloody pulp. None of it would take away the guilt he lived with. None of it would salve the pain within his troubled heart.
When Luther went to confession, the listening priest could count on hours rather than minutes. This poor child had not been given the truth of the Gospel in all his childhood. He didn’t know that His sins were already forgiven. He didn’t realize that the ransom for his soul had been paid in full.
His years as a priest allowed him to search the scriptures thoroughly. He was a scholarly theologian, who shared his knowledge with others, but still he suffered – never feeling good enough, saved enough, redeemed enough. He always felt that he must do more.
At this time in history, the Roman Catholic church was involved in corruption to the max. They sold indulgences – “get out of purgatory” worthless pieces of paper to the population in order to support the enhancement of the physical church. This was a time when the arts were esteemed and valued. It was also a time when pomp and circumstance took the place of the simple truth of redemption.
So this year we celebrate the Reformation and its 500th year. Many more changes have occurred over time, but the truth remains. By faith alone we’re saved, through grace from God the Father. It is a free gift. I know this because God’s voice is in His Word.