Anniversary of the Reformation
2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The last Sunday in October is known in many churches as “Reformation Sunday”, commemorating Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 theses on October 31, 1517. As you’d expect, the 500th anniversary of such a significant event has prompted a lot of attention.
On the occasion of the 500th anniversary, a number of Protestant theologians have freshly articulated the Christian faith that was recovered and articulated in the Reformation in what they call “A Reforming Catholic Confession.” It is a wonderful document, neither shying away from the sinful and tragic realities related to the Reformation, nor ignoring the need and intention of the original Reformers.
Among other things, this confession affirms “It is wholly by grace (sola gratia), not our own works or merits, that we have been forgiven; it is wholly by Jesus’ shed blood, not by our own sweat and tears, that we have been cleansed.” This was — and is — the crux of the matter. This is the essential truth to hold on to, even in our day and in our lives.
That we are saved “wholly be grace” is such a challenging reality for us to hold on to. As our Bishop mentioned at the retreat last Saturday, we are so prone to conceiving of engagement with God in terms of “guilt and shame”, which prompts us to strive and try to earn our salvation. We so easily lose sight of the “singularity and sufficiency” of what Jesus has accomplished for us upon the cross.
That this wondrous truth is so difficult to hold on to is why we proclaim it, through Word and Sacrament, week in and week out. We do this so that the truth of what Christ has done might, by the power of the Holy Spirit, be driven more deeply into the very center of our lives. As your priest, it is my hope in this season for each of you to freshly hold to this central truth of the Gospel and to fully experience the freedom it provides, growing in maturity in Christ.
The Gospel is for you. As I read this week “Come where the fountain flows, river of life; healing for all thy woes, doubting, and strife. Millions have been supplied, no one was e’er denied; come, sinner, come.” (Henry Burton, The Parables of Jesus)
Soli Deo gloria (glory to God alone),