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Sunday Thoughts for Reformation Sunday

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday (October 28) we will observe as Reformation Sunday. Reformation Day is actually October 31 because that is the day Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the castle church door. While the Reformation impacted the entire history of the world, Lutherans tend to be the only ones who observe the day. Other denominations do so sporadically.

Our service will be marked by the reception of three new members as well as a special rite for blessing the sleeping bags we have made to give to the homeless. We will also be blessed by the singing of our seasonal choir. A reception for our new members will follow the worship service.

Reformation Sunday marks the beginning of the busy season for Lutheran congregations. November will begin with All Saints’ Sunday (All Saints’ Day is actually November 1) and the month ends with Thanksgiving. December we enter the Advent/Christmas season with special services throughout. Also, on All Saints’ Sunday, our service will be followed by a ground breaking ceremony for our community garden. Also, this is the Sunday we “fall back;” Daylight Savings Time ends.

The appointed lessons for Reformation Sunday are Psalm 46 (7); Revelation 14:6–7; Romans 3:19–28; John 8:31–36. See below for more about them.

The sermon will be titled “Abide To Be Free.” The text will be John 8:31-32.

Our opening hymn for Sunday will be “By Grace I’m Saved” (LSB 566). The sermon hymn will be “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” (LSB 656). We will sing the first verse in German. We will be using Martin Luther’s rhythm instead of J.S. Bach’s. The hymn we will use during the reception of new members will be “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word” (LSB 915), Our closing hymn will be “Built on the Rock” (LSB 645).

Below are the lessons for Sunday with a few initial thoughts from me.

Psalm 46
1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come, behold the works of the LORD,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

My initial thoughts:
This is the Psalm that inspired Martin Luther to write “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” The idea that God is our great defender cannot be missed. One remembers the words closing the explanation of the first article of the Apostles’ Creed in the Small Catechism, “He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.”

Revelation 14:6–7
6 Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. 7And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

My initial thoughts:
Back during the Reformation, many believed Martin Luther was this angel for he was proclaiming the eternal gospel and that gospel was going around the world. On the masthead of Der Lutheraner, the German language paper that preceded Lutheran Witness, this angel was depicted because of the Luther association. The idea may seem quaint today, but it wasn’t entirely beside the point. This angel (the word means “messenger”) represents all who stand up and share the gospel “to every nation and tribe and language and people. That is to say, who take the Great Commission of Jesus in Matthew 28 to heart and act on it. Luther was certainly one such person.

Romans 3:19–28
19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

My initial thoughts:
What is meant by “the righteousness of God”? This question led to Martin Luther’s breakthrough that sparked the Reformation. He had been taught that the righteousness of God was “active,” meaning it was God’s righteousness by which he judged humanity. As no one is perfect everyone failed to meet this standard of righteousness and therefore lived under God just judgment. No one was justified. But then he realized that the righteousness of God, like what is spoken of in verse 21, is passive. That is to say, it is not something we do but a gift from God to us. He gives us his righteousness by grace through faith. Therefore all who believe in Jesus receive the righteousness of God and are justified in God’s sight.

John 8:31–36
31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

My initial thoughts:
The quote “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free,” is often misused. Jesus is not speaking of knowing the truth about the latest political scandal, the truth about what is actually in the package of food you are buying at the supermarket, or what your children are doing with their friends. Jesus once said, “I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” The truth that sets one free is Jesus.

May this look ahead help us prepare for our Sunday worship.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor

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