It is generally acknowledged that Oct. 31, 1517, was the beginning of The Reformation. Martin Luther of Wittenberg University, Germany, nailed the 95 theses on the door of All Saints,’ the Castle Church, Wittenberg. This era also is known as The Protestant Reformation, because of theologians Jean Calvin and Huldrych Zwingli in Switzerland. It also could be called The Reformation Era, because it included all the people and councils in The Roman Catholic Church, The Reformation in England, hundreds of other individuals, groups, events and the tragic wars throughout Europe up to the year 1685.
Luther had an intense conscience, and he struggled with the reality of sin in his life, in the lives of humans and in creation itself. Romans 5:12 and 8:20. How do I as a human being with my sin become righteous/holy before Almighty God? The Holy Spirit led Luther to grasp the Biblical meaning of the ‘righteousness of God’ as described by the inspired Words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 3:21-26.
God’s righteousness is not earned by our works. It is received by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, The Son of God. Christ Jesus earned our salvation by His faithfulness, and gives us the benefits of His saving work through the gift of faith. Jesus Christ’s death on the cross at Golgotha to deliver humanity from sin is vindicated when God raised him from the dead. The certainty of our own resurrection and salvation is now conferred to everyone who confesses that Jesus is Lord and believes in his heart that God raised Jesus from the dead. (Romans 10:9)
The 500th anniversary of the Reformation should not become a time to revere Martin Luther. Rather, we thank God that the Holy Spirit led Luther, a forgiven sinner, to uncover the truth that the entire life of a Christian is one of repentance. Having been justified by grace through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We become a new creation in Christ Jesus, praising God and serving our neighbors in love. The Reformation is about Jesus Christ, our crucified and risen Lord and Savior. It is about our calling as messengers to a sinful world of the reconciliation enacted by God in Christ Jesus. (II Corinthians 5:19)
If God, our Heavenly Father, allows another 500 years for humans on this earth, we, his disciples, are to bear fruit in keeping with repentance by acknowledging the regrettable divisions in the Christian church and striving for unity.
Our common Christian prayers, including the Lord’s Prayer, hopefully will reflect the prayer of our Lord Jesus in John 17:11. We pray for all Christians to be kept in the holy name of our Heavenly Father. As Jesus and the Father are one, so may we also be one in the name of Jesus.
Our prayers will reflect the Apostle Paul’s message in Ephesians 4:1-6. We walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called. We live in humility, gentleness and patient love.
We sustain one another in love. We are eager to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the union of peace. We have one Lord, one hope, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all people and all creation.
Retired Lutheran Church Missouri Synod Pastor Monte Gusewelle lives in Durango, Colo., and serves Shepherd of the Desert Lutheran Church, Page, monthly. He graduated from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Mo., in 1973.