We are quickly approaching the 500th anniversary of the “accidental reformation” of the Church. Dr. Luther had no intention of starting a new church. He sincerely wanted to change the only Church Europe knew: The Roman Catholic Church. He saw errors in the practice of faith that troubled him greatly. He truly believed that the Pope had no idea that these errors were being committed and once he clarified and stated his position clearly, everything would be corrected.
Little did Dr. Luther know was the fact that Pope Leo was raising funds to rebuild St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and did not appreciate the German theologian getting in the way of this construction project.
Needless to say, Dr. Luther was surprised that he was told to recant everything he ever taught and wrote. He didn’t. And the se rest is history.
Reformations are messy. Church splits are even messier. Although this was a needed correction (at that time)—it wasn’t without great turmoil and loss of life (Peasant Revolt). This story did not come anywhere close to “and they lived happily ever after.” It is only after 500 years that we see a warming of relationship between the Lutheran Church and the Roman Catholic Church even if we do not agree on everything and probably never will. However, that does not mean we have to disparage each other and break one of the commandments in the process.
I find it interesting that Dr. Luther came to an understanding of God’s love and grace shortly before the 95 Theses were posted to the Wittenberg Chapel door in 1517.
It was this verse that changed his understanding of God and caused the Western World to be changed in ways he could not even imagine at the time. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”- Romans 1:17
It was in studying this passage in depth that he came to a new realization- we are made righteous by God through faith. Instead of trying to prove our righteousness through the things we say and do, which is impossible, we are made righteous by trusting in Jesus Christ.
The amazing part of this is that faith is also a gift from God. Listen to this– For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. -Ephesians 2:8
Later on, when Dr. Luther wrote the Small Catechism for family use, he made this statement which reflects the Ephesians 2 verse. “I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith…”
We have been asked by God to resist the urge to be skeptical of all things we cannot see. Instead, let the Holy Spirit create and sustain faith in us through the gospel story of Jesus and the receiving of the sacraments.
We are all poor beggars in the eyes of God. We have nothing to offer of worth. It is God through Jesus Christ who graciously gives us all things.
Let us rejoice and be glad…and point fellow beggars to the bread of life.