Today is Reformation Day!
On October 31, 1517 a young German monk named Martin Luther nailed his “95 Thesis” to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. He meant to call for a debate on abusive church practices regarding the sale of indulgences, but this particular debate never came. Instead, Luther’s challenge to the church began to be centered around the Gospel of Jesus Christ
This Reformation of the Church begun by Luther on that day was centered around the Gospel. Luther held, against the opposition of the pope and church authorities, that people were saved by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ. He believed that the Bible was the sole source of doctrine and that the entire Bible, both Old and New Testaments, was centered in Jesus Christ. Christ is the one whom God had promised Adam and Eve after they fell into sin, he is the one foretold throughout the Old Testament, and he is the one who came to fulfill God’s promises as related in the New Testament. He is also the one who is returning to restore all of God’s creation at the end of time to complete the hopes of the Church. Christ is the one who is looked to in faith for salvation by all the saints, both Old and New Testament.
This Gospel (that is to say “Good News”) of Jesus Christ had been obscured in Luther’s day by many practices of the church. The church sold indulgences which promised the forgiveness of sins, engaged in the sacrifice of the Mass which was viewed as man’s act of appeasement of God, told people that they had to do works of love to be saved, and encouraged people to doubt their salvation as an act of piety. The rediscovery of the Gospel, though, speaks against all these false beliefs. The Gospel points to Jesus Christ as the only one in whom we have forgiveness of sins, looks at his cross as God’s sacrifice which saves us, promises us that we are freely saved by God through Christ, and assures us that we are saved because God says that we are. That is why it is “Good News,” because God has acted to save us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and He assures us that we are now His children through Christ.
Thus, the Reformation deserves commemoration because in it the Gospel was uncovered and allowed to shine forth. To troubled consciences, the Gospel brings the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. To those feeling a sense of brokenness, the Gospel brings the restoration of Christ. To those feeling shame, the Gospel brings the acceptance of Christ (i.e. Christ’s acceptance of us sinners). To those feeling separated from God and each other, the Gospel brings the peace and community that is found in Christ.
Thus, the Gospel proclaims the forgiveness, restoration, and salvation that is found only in Jesus Christ, freely as a gift of God’s grace and mercy. The Reformation helped bring forth this Good News so that it can be proclaimed to all people.
So, this day, October 31st deserves to be remembered for much more than trick-or-treating and pumpkins; this is the day when the Gospel of Jesus Christ began to be uncovered to shine the light of God’s grace on all people.