“How Do We Get God’s Grace?” (Romans 3:19-28)

Reformation Day (Observed)
October 28, 2018

“How Do We Get God’s Grace?” (Romans 3:19-28)

On the last Sunday in October every year, we celebrate Reformation Day. For on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed Ninety-five Theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, thus starting the great Reformation of the Christian church. Last year, 2017, was the 500th anniversary of that momentous event, and there were huge celebrations around the world. This year, 2018, is the 501st anniversary, so the occasion is toned down accordingly. But we still have something to celebrate. Indeed, 1517 was just the beginning of the Reformation. Every year now we will have the 500th anniversary of some significant event during that time period.

The biggest Reformation event that occurred in 1518, which we celebrate the 500th anniversary of this year, is the Heidelberg Disputation. Let me explain. After Luther posted his Ninety-five Theses in October 1517, the publication and spread of these theses caused a worldwide sensation. Luther was upsetting the applecart! He was challenging the practice of indulgences, and thus he was challenging the authority of the Pope and the Roman Church! This caught everyone’s attention. People wanted to know more. What was this little monk, a professor at a little university in Germany–what was this Luther fellow saying? Brother Martin was a member of the Augustinian order, and so his teaching would be the topic for discussion at the conference of the Augustinians, to be held in Heidelberg, Germany, in the spring of 1518.

Now why is this important for us today? Because the theses that Luther put forward at Heidelberg exposed the errors of the medieval Roman Catholic Church–even more so than did the Ninety-five Theses of six months earlier. In the Heidelberg Disputation, Luther powerfully takes apart the errors that were being taught, and he brings to light the truth of the gospel. And it is this gospel, this good news of God’s grace in Christ–the message of justification by faith apart from works of the law—that stands ever firm and trustworthy for us today. And it revolves around this question: “How Do We Get God’s Grace?”

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Published in: on October 27, 2018 at 10:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Reformation 500: By Grace Alone” (Romans 3:19-28)

Reformation Day (Observed)
Sunday, October 29, 2017

“Reformation 500: By Grace Alone” (Romans 3:19-28)

Happy Reformation Day! Now I could say that every year on the last Sunday in October, which is when we observe Reformation Day. But this year it is something special. Because this year, 2017, and this week, October 31–this is the 500th anniversary of that day in 1517 when the Reformation really began.

And you and I are here as a result. We are in a church, this congregation, and a church body, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, that hold to the teachings that came out of that great Reformation. We are partnered with many other confessional Lutheran church bodies around the world that believe, teach, and confess likewise. All around the world, today and this week and this year, we and our fellow Lutherans are celebrating and giving thanks to God for 500 years of Reformation blessings. 500 years! All by God’s grace, for we surely do not deserve it. The Reformation that Luther started brought the great and glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ into clear focus, uncluttered by the errors in doctrine and practice that had crept into the church. And, by God’s grace, we still are being blessed by the pure teaching of the gospel of Christ. It’s still all about Jesus! For this, we give God our most hearty thanks and praise! Thus our theme this morning: “Reformation 500: By Grace Alone.”

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Published in: on October 28, 2017 at 10:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“An Eternal Gospel to Reclaim and Proclaim” (Revelation 14:6-7; Romans 3:19-28)

Reformation Day (Observed)
Sunday, October 30, 2016

“An Eternal Gospel to Reclaim and Proclaim” (Revelation 14:6-7; Romans 3:19-28)

It was 499 years ago tomorrow, on October 31, 1517, that Martin Luther nailed Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, thus beginning the movement known as the Reformation. We are the heirs of that heritage, and so it is that on the last Sunday in October every year we observe Reformation Day in our churches. We are grateful to God for raising up his servant Luther to bring the clear truth of the gospel to light and to prominence once again. And we want to learn from the Reformation of the need to always be vigilant in guarding the doctrine and practice of the church, so that we remain faithful and steadfast in the truth of God’s Word. For the gospel of Christ that the church is entrusted to proclaim–this is the only saving word there is, and God wants all men everywhere to hear and receive it. Thus our theme on this Reformation Day: “An Eternal Gospel to Reclaim and Proclaim.”

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Published in: on October 29, 2016 at 5:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Law and the Prophets Bear Witness” (Romans 3:19-28)

Reformation Day (Observed)
October 25, 2015

“The Law and the Prophets Bear Witness” (Romans 3:19-28)

Today being the last Sunday in October, this is the day we observe Reformation Day, celebrating what happened 498 years ago, when, on October 31, 1517, Dr. Martin Luther went to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, and there posted 95 Theses questioning the sale of indulgences. That was the beginning of the great Reformation of the church, and as Lutherans we are here today as the beneficiaries of that movement and that heritage. We thank God that he used Luther as his instrument to bring the clear gospel of Christ to light, breaking through the fog and the clouds that had obscured it.

But how did Luther get there? How did he come to his evangelical breakthrough, his dawning discovery of the pure gospel, in contrast to the accretions of centuries that had covered over and clouded the truth? What led Luther to an increasing realization of how the church had gotten off track and where the true path of righteousness is found? When we know this, when we know how Luther came to this realization, then that in turn will bolster our faith and deepen our own understanding and strengthen our commitment to the truth.

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Published in: on October 24, 2015 at 8:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Justification: The Heart of the Reformation” (Romans 3:19-28)

Reformation Day (Observed)
Sunday, October 26, 2014

“Justification: The Heart of the Reformation” (Romans 3:19-28)

Today is the last Sunday in October, and so we are observing Reformation Day. It will be 497 years ago this Friday, on October 31, 1517, that Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, thus setting in motion the great Reformation of the Christian church. We are the heirs of that Reformation, blessed to be so, and so we join with faithful Lutherans all around the globe in celebrating that historic event and all the blessings of pure doctrine and sound practice that came from it.

How do we celebrate the Reformation? By believing in and caring about the same things that Luther and the Reformers believed in and cared about. And foremost in that list, I would put one word: Justification. Everything else that we can talk about in the Lutheran church flows from, follows after, undergirds and supports this central, primary doctrine of justification. And so our theme for this Reformation Day, “Justification: The Heart of the Reformation.”

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Published in: on October 26, 2014 at 6:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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“A Reformation in Catechesis” (John 8:31-36)

Reformation Day (Observed)
Sunday, October 27, 2013

“A Reformation in Catechesis” (John 8:31-36)

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” This is the word of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he spoke in John 8:31-32. His word is truth, and this truth sets us free. Free from all our sins, and from our slavery to sin. Free from the burden of the law, which would crush us with its demands we can never meet. Free from our bondage to death and the grave, free to live forever. Yes, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

This is the gospel freedom that God, by his grace, led a man by the name of Martin Luther to discover, which insight Luther then passed on to others, and we today are the heirs of that heritage. But what it took for that great gospel teaching to take hold in the church, in the hearts and minds of the people–what it took, Luther learned, was “A Reformation in Catechesis.” That is where we are going today on this Reformation Sunday, 2013.

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Published in: on October 26, 2013 at 5:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“A Lonely Monk, Now Long Ago” (Psalm 119:46)

Reformation Day (Observed)
Sunday, October 28, 2012

“A Lonely Monk, Now Long Ago” (Psalm 119:46)

A Lonely Monk, Now Long Ago

A lonely monk, now long ago,
Nailed truth upon a door;
The echoes of that hammer blow
Rang out to many more.
And when he spoke his “Here I stand,”
Although he could be slain,
Throughout the realm a growing band
Soon followed in his train.

Confessors, princes, duty bound,
To Augsburg bold they came;
Before the king they stood their ground
And were not put to shame.
Their good confession made that day
Proved not to be in vain;
Gird us their sons, Lord, that we may
Still follow in their train.

With confidence in Christ alone,
Our faith we will confess;
For Jesus’ death made us His own,
And now He lives to bless.
Our Savior leads us heavenward,
Eternal life to gain;
Confessing truth that we have heard,
We follow in His train!

Text: Charles Henrickson, © 2012
Tune: All Saints New (LSB 661, 678)

The hymn we just sang tells the story of the Reformation, that great movement of God in the 16th century in which the pure gospel of Christ was recovered and brought to the forefront again. It is the story of Martin Luther, the great reformer of the church, whom God used in such a mighty way. It is the story of those who stood with Luther, the confessors at Augsburg, for instance. But the story of the Reformation, the story told in this hymn–this is our story, too. For we too have truth to declare. We too have the same faith to confess, the faith once delivered to the saints, the eternal gospel that Luther proclaimed so loud and clear.

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Published in: on October 25, 2012 at 12:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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