Vol. 32, No. 9 -- October 2012
CHRIST LUTHERAN CHURCH OF THE DEAF
9545 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20910
Holidays help us remember our history.
Here in the USA, July 4th and Thanksgiving Day take us back to our nation's beginning. Veterans, Memorial, and Martin Luther King Days help us remember the sacrifices which men and women made in the past that benefit us today. And the holidays help us affirm the principles of faith, freedom, and equality which motivated them to make those sacrifices.
Religious holidays serve the same purpose. Pesach (Passover) and Sukkot (Feast of Booths) take Jews back to Israel's beginning as a covenant people of God. Every year Christians study the life of Christ during Christmas, Good Friday, Resurrection Sunday, and Ascension Day, as we remember the reason He came to suffer, die, and rise again for each one of us.
The last day in the month of October we have another such day of remembering our faith roots. We call it Reformation Day.
On October 31, 1517, a German Catholic priest of the Augustinian Order, who was Professor of Bible at the University of Wittenberg, posted a controversial notice to his church door. He wrote the notice in the Latin Language, intending it only for debate among his fellow faculty and clergy. Little did Martin Luther realize the firestorm that his Ninety-five Theses would start. Someone copied his hand-written notice, translated it into the common language of the people, printed it on Johannes Gutenberg's new invention, and distributed it for all the world to read.
What Luther wrote in his Ninety-five Theses was simple and blunt. It wasn't deep or profound. But it deeply touched the people. Luther put into words what people already felt. He didn't intend to spark a movement that would break away from the Catholic Church. He simply wanted his church to return to her biblical roots of grace through faith in Christ.
If you were to read our church's confessions of faith from cover to cover, you would not find Luther's Ninety-five Theses anywhere, and for good reason. When Luther wrote the Ninety-five Theses, he still accepted unbiblical notions about "purgatory." Indeed, when he wrote it, Luther wasn't even confident about his own salvation. He wanted God's grace, but he wasn't sure how to receive it. He finally found it two years later when he was studying the Bible -- Romans 1.17. There he found that we receive God's grace and forgiveness, not by our works, but as His gift. And we receive that gift simply by faith -- trusting Him. The Ninety-five Theses say nothing about this important truth.
If you read the American Declaration of Independence (1776) and Luther's Ninety-five Theses (1517) side by side, you can see some interesting similarities between them.
One protests the actions of King of England;
the other protests the actions of the Pope.
One appeals to God's authority for political freedom;
the other appeals to God's love for eternal salvation.
And both documents mark an important turning point in history which we commemorate with a holiday --
Independence Day (July 4) and
Reformation Day (October 31).
And just as our remembrance of Independence Day is much broader than the signing of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress, so also, our remembrance of Reformation Day is much more than just Luther posting his Ninety-five Theses. We remember the radical meaning of the Reformation motto:
We remember we are saved by grace through faith, not by works (Ephesians 2.8-9).
We remember that as believers in this world, we are saints and sinners at the same time.
We remember that the Bible teaches two basic truths:
Law and Gospel -- bad news and good news.
The Law shows us our sins.
The Gospel shows us our Savior.
And just as Independence Day reminds American citizens to hold tightly to those basic principles of liberty for which our forefathers died, and refuse to trade those principles for centralized control, so also Reformation Day reminds Christians to hold tightly to those basic principles of faith and Scripture, and refuse to trade them for legalism or relativism.