On Sunday we will remember the 501stanniversary of the Protestant Reformation. As you know, the reformation caused a major schism in the Church of Christ and we are still trying to heal those divisions 501 years later. It is quite possible that there will never be reconciliation within the Church until Christ himself returns. This reformation was needed but it did come at the cost of Christian unity.
As a Lutheran, I often think about these verses this time of year…
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
This is where we find the source of the often paraphrased Lutheran saying, “we are saved by grace through faith.”
The Church at the time of Martin Luther (1517) didn’t preach this message. Instead the Church used their power and influence to control, scare and manipulate people into submission for many motivations including financial reasons.
It is Martin Luther who essentially read the Bible and realized that the words and actions of the Church didn’t match the words of scripture and the intentions of the Word of God.
It reminds me of this picture and scene from the Princess Bride.
The only exception is the “word” is the Word of God in this case.
When we look at these verses in Ephesians, we see Saint Paul reminding the church in Ephesus (a church he started) of an essential truth: Faith in Jesus is a gift from God.
It is hard to believe that faith is a gift… but Paul seems to think so and there is good reason for that. He was an enemy of the Church and an enemy of Christ in a previous career/life. It was Jesus himself that created faith in Saint Paul in a very dramatic way (See Acts 9). Saint Paul knows personally that faith is a gift even if we were raised in the church and never considered ourselves an enemy of Christ!
God is a giver and God is relational. Jesus came to us so that we may receive faith as a gift and then trust in His loving agenda for our lives and for the world.
Saint Paul so believes faith is a gift that he says no one can brag about being a great Christian because the ability to trust God is actually a gift from God.
On Sunday we will remember the Protestant Reformation that began in 1517. More than any other time in my life, I see the importance of reformation. Because it isn’t really a reformation, it was a return to what God intended the Church to be. A return to grace, a return to love and a return to a loving relationship… established and given by God. We need more love in our nation and in our world. Only Christ can help us love more and more deeply.
God bless you,