Volume 12, No. 8 (August 2017)
“Reformation Day,” and “Reformation Sunday” on the Sunday immediately preceding, is celebrated every year in Lutheran and other churches in commemoration of Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenberg; this act is commonly seen as setting in motion the discussions, debates and conflicts that resulted in what we now call the Protestant Reformation. This year there are remembrances occurring all over the world focused on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
A quick Google search will reveal how many conferences, tours, books, videos, posters, T-shirts, etc., are springing up related to this historical event. Even the country of Ukraine, though officially Orthodox, has for some reason declared 2017 as the “Year of Luther.” (The tiny evangelical church there is delighted.)
Churches are likewise stepping up to use this occasion to educate their people and spread their message. Obviously Lutheran churches are leading the way, but many other groups as well, as all Protestants of course have their roots in the Reformation.
What are we celebrating?
- As mentioned above, Protestants are celebrating their common roots in the Reformation.
- We are acknowledging the important perspective that Martin Luther and the other Reformers were not trying to form a new branch of the Church; rather they were trying to instigate needed reforms within the established Church of their day. It is only when these suggested reforms were met with resistance (and, in Luther’s case, even excommunication), that a new direction became necessary.
- We are emphasizing that the goal of Luther and the other Reformers was not to introduce new doctrinal teachings into the church; rather they were seeking to recover New Testament doctrines and apostolic teachings to a Church that had lost them.
- We are stressing that the Reformers brought a Reformation of worship as well as of doctrine. (See Worship Notes 11.10)
Why should we celebrate?
- In a world of fallen Christian leaders, dysfunctional sports stars and decadent pop icons, the Reformers were (and are) true Christian heroes. “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7)
- The Reformers came to their convictions through a personal study of God’s Word.
- The Reformers model for us an unshakeable faith in God and His Word, as they stood (often alone) against all the civil and religious authorities of their time; we are called to stand by faith against many anti-Christian cultural forces in our time as well.
- All of us who have trusted in Christ for our salvation owe a huge debt to the Reformers for restoring the biblical gospel to the Church.
How can we celebrate?
There are already conferences, study tours, and a wealth of study materials for all ages available.
- There are five Sundays in October this year. Our pastor will do a special sermon series, on each Sunday of the month covering one of the five great “Solas” of the Reformation (Sola Scriptura: the Scriptures alone; Sola Gratia: by Grace alone; Sola Fide: through Faith alone; Solus Christus: in Christ alone; Soli Deo Gloria: glory to God alone).
- We will also have 5-minute vignettes in our worship services in October, explaining various aspects of the Reformation of worship.
- A gifted woodworker in our church is constructing for us a large “Wittenberg Door,” which will stand in the middle of our central foyer through the month of October. On it we will post a facsimile of the 95 Theses, along with various historical sketches of the great Reformers and of Reformation themes.
ON REFORMATION SUNDAY
- On Sunday morning, October 29, many churches will have a special Reformation observance (if not through the entire month). A great way to walk through the important truths of the Reformation is with Scripture readings joined with musical responses for each of the Solas. (At least one church I know, with a normally very contemporary style of worship, is going to do something like this as part of special evening celebration that evening.) To find a number of services using this kind of Revelation-and-Response, almost Lessons-and-Carols, type of structure, please go HERE.
- For ten years, 10-15 sister churches in our area (Presbyterian, Baptist, independent) have joined on the evening of Reformation Sunday for a Community Reformation Service celebrating our common heritage in the Reformation. This year will be no exception. We combine our choirs, which along with supporting the congregational singing offer a couple of big festival anthems incorporating brass, timpani and organ. (The bulletins from these services we have been apart of can found at the same link as above.) But there is no reason why such a service could not use a more contemporary or blended style.
There is probably still time to initiate such a community service for October 29 this year. It is always such a powerful statement of our unity in Christ!
The Reformation was, and is, a big deal. The Church has never been the same since the Reformers reformed and revived the proclamation of the gospel, of the teaching of key apostolic doctrines, and of the church’s worship. As such, it is well worth celebrating!