Sermon – 10-31-21 – Reformation Sunday – Cycle B
Scripture: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 46; Romans 3:19-28; John 8:31-36
Sermon Title: “Coming Together in Love”
This is Reformation Sunday. The time when we remember the religious reformation as the 1400’s became the 1500’s.
Meet Martin Luther. A member of the only church in Western Europe when Martin lived in Germany. It was the Roman Catholic church. Martin was a very interesting character. It is easy to find biography and other writings of this period in history.
I am Martin. I am not big on soft speech and mushy love. I am a pretty forceful character. I have my moods. If you want to know how I became a husband, read about it. It really bothered me that the people in the pews could not understand the words of the mass because they were in Latin.
People could not read the Bible because it too was in Latin. Our people are German. I am a German. I became a priest. I knew how to read Latin. I got started translating the Bible from Latin to German. It surely helped that at the same time that I finished translating the Bible, the man named Gutenberg invented the printing press. Now Monks did not need to handcopy my version of the Bible. This version became available to the masses in Germany.
Mind you, while I was translating the Bible, I got to really know what the Bible said. And surprise! The preaching and teaching of the Roman Catholic church by that time was a far stretch from when Jesus walked the earth and preached and taught. The disciples started the church in “Jesus fashion.” Gradually, the leaders of the church strayed from the idea of the free forgiveness of sins that resulted from Jesus dying on the cross.
Can you imagine? By the end of the 1400’s when I was born, the church was saying that we had to pay for forgiveness. There were all kinds of pay scales and the idea of relics and indulgences bringing forgiveness. Also the idea that people could not confess sins directly to God. We needed to confess to another human – a priest.
As I am plodding through the scripture, I finally get to the New Testament. I read in the letters that Paul wrote to the young churches around the Mediterranean Sea that we can’t earn forgiveness, we can’t buy forgiveness. Forgiveness comes by the grace of God. We hear the Apostle Paul saying, “. . . since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift.” Paul wrote this in his letter to the church in Rome. It is the book of Romans in our Bible.
We are justified by grace through faith – by grace through faith! Well! The church had to change. And I guess I am the one God chose to change the church. I am going to write some ideas to change the church and I am going to hang them on the church door. I did! I hung them on the church door on the last day of October in 1517. There were 99 thesis (ideas) on the papers I nailed to the door. The church had to change. It just happened that it was the eve of All Saints Day when I hung those thesis. You call the eve of All Saints Day Halloween. The eve of a Holy (Hallow) day. Now you can remember when I nailed my ideas on the church door. Don’t forget the year for your history class. 1517.
How do you think the leaders of the church received my 99 theses? Did they call a council to consider changing? Not on your life! Instead they excommunicated me. So be it! Some other leader-type people agreed with me and the fight was on. Why did I not do this peacefully, you ask? I urged everyone to do this peacefully in my “Invocavit Sermons.” I preached these eight sermons about love, patience, charity, and freedom and I reminded the citizens to trust God’s word rather than violence to bring about necessary change.
There was John Calvin who agreed with me that the Roman Catholic church was sick at that time. By the way, the Roman Catholic church reformed itself after we had established the Protestant denominations. They saw the error of their ways.
Getting back to John Calvin, he did not agree with all of my 99 theses. We looked at the Christian faith differently. Mind you, the Roman Catholic church and the Eastern Orthodox church – a story for another day – are Christian. They believe in Jesus as Son, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit forming a Trinity. But Calvin had his own slant. So we did not really get along except we were both forming a new kind of church. Then there were the people called Anabaptists. They did not believe in infant baptism. They could not possibly be right. They were treated very badly by the violent actors of this time. It certainly was not at my directing.
So you can tell how we became Lutherans and Reforms and Mennonites from Menno Simmons and other denominations. All of us are called Protestants from the word “protest.”
Was this all a good thing? Isn’t it good to have a choice? You can pick and choose whichever group pleases you at any given time. If your feelings are hurt and you do not feel welcome at one place or if you don’t agree with the teachings, you can just take your feet a different direction come the next Sunday morning. Please think of me kindly the next time you go to the church of your choice. Sincerely, Martin Luther
So here we have the story of separation to prove our understanding of the Bible is the right way and the only way. Choice is good, don’t you agree? But would Jesus be pleased with all of these hard feelings and insisting on our own interpretation of the Bible being the only way to understand the writings. And is it worth people being persecuted in our insistence that we are right?
What ever happened to working together or at least agreeing to disagree? We can come together in love even though our beliefs are slightly different and we like different worship styles. If we like different worship styles we should find a church with the worship style that makes us feel closer to God. But let’s check the teachings. Are we hearing forgiveness through Christ’s love of us, are we hearing forgiveness because we believe, or are we being told that we need to work to be sinless?
Jesus said in John 8, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” Our sin will not separate us from the love of God (from Romans 8). Let’s remember that God is not coming toward us with fury on a big black horse to trample us to the ground. God is a god of love! God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble! The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Be still and know. Be still and know that our God is a god of love and protection and comfort. Nothing in all the world can separate us from the love of God. God is with us through persecution and sufferings. Death will not separate us from the love of God because in death we will be brought close to God. When we get there, we will hear God whisper to us, “I remember your sins no more. I love you.”