St. John's Lutheran Church | 391 Mount Hope Road, Middletown, NY 10940 | 845.342.1963 | firstname.lastname@example.org
St. John's Lutheran Church
Dear Friends in Christ:
The month of October brings us to the actual 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. We identify the particular day, October 31, 1517 as the official beginning. It was on that day, in the German city of Wittenberg, that Martin Luther posted his “95 Theses,” his 95 ideas for reform and debate within the Roman Catholic Church.
Luther chose October 31st, not because of Halloween, but because it was the day before the great feast of All Saints’ on November 1st. He knew that many would be coming to mass on that day, so by posting his “95 Theses” the day before, he insured that they would be seen and read by many. That’s exactly what happened!
While that is officially the beginning of the Reformation, the fact is that it really was a process that continued for many years, even after Luther’s death in 1546. Some say that the Reformation has never really ended because the church can always fall into error, and is always in need of reform. I agree with that statement myself.
In the last issue of the “The EAGLE” I shared the second of the Reformation “solas”, the five short phrases that nicely sum up what the Reformation was all about. The second one was “Sola Fide” which announces that we get to heaven not by our own efforts or good works, but that we are “saved by our faith in Christ alone.” I now can share the third one with you:
That is a Latin phrase which is translated “grace alone.” But what does that mean? The word “grace” is an important word in our faith vocabulary. Grace is something that is a gift, given for free, with no cost attached for the recipient. An example I often use when teaching the children: If you family gives you a gift for your birthday, they don’t give you the bill and ask you to pay for it. It’s a gift. It’s given to you for free, with no cost attached.
When Martin Luther coined the phrase “Sola Gratia” (grace alone), he was referring to how salvation comes to us as the people of God. The promise of heaven is given to us as a gift, a free gift. It is first given to us in Holy Baptism, and one we should be reminded of every day. You can’t buy your way into heaven. That was part of Luther’s problem with the Roman Catholic Church which in 1517 seemed to be “selling forgiveness and places in heaven.” You can’t buy your way into heaven by using your checkbook. You can’t earn you way into heaven by logging in enough hours. No, you get to heaven as a free gift from God. Like all gifts, all you have to do is receive it with thanks.
So who did pay the price? Well that is an easy question to answer. Jesus paid the price for us. That is what his life was about, and that is what the cross is about. Jesus paid the price for us. Jesus took our sins upon himself, and when he died on that cross, he died for us all. What Luther wanted to do was bring the church back to Christ. To bring them back to his cross, and remind them that our salvation was won for all of us of the cross of Christ. It is given to us as a “free gift,” a gift of God’s grace. Come back next month to hear the fourth of our Reformation “solas”. Together they tell the story of our Savior and what he has done for us.
During this month of October I hope that you will take advantage of some exciting “Reformation 500” events:
An “Organ Recital” on Sunday, October 15th at 3:00 PM will feature Boyd Herforth of Grace Episcopal Church at the organ console. He is featuring music by German composers, including Bach and others. We do have some surprises planned. Admission is free, but an offering will be received for the Piano Fund.
“German Dessert Night” is on Friday, October 27th at 7:00 PM. Part of our Reformation Weekend, we will have an array of delicious German desserts along with a video travelogue of the German sites of Martin Luther’s life and the Lutheran Reformation. Admission is also free.
“Reformation Sunday” is Sunday, October 29th, and we will worship at both 9:00 and 11:00 AM using the “1888 Common Service” of the Lutheran Church. This was the first official English language Lutheran liturgy. It was created in Philadelphia 30 years before the publication of the first English language hymnal, the “Common Service Book with Hymnal”. This would have been the English service used at St. John’s after they switched over from the German language, and was used until the red SBH hymnal was published in 1958. On this 500th Anniversary Reformation Sunday we will worship using this historic liturgy.
October will be a busy month for us…..and I hope a memorable one as well. It’s all about giving thanks to God for that free gift, that “gift of God’s grace,” Our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Pastor Rustico +