The Glories Of The Lutheran Reformation
October 28, 2023 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Christ Lutheran Church
October 28, 2023
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Festival of the Reformation
The Glories Or The Lutheran Reformation
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you abide in MY word you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. They answered him, "We are the descendants of Abraham and have never been enslaved by anyone. How can you say, ‘you will be free.’ Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly I say to you that everyone who sins is a slave to sin. The slave does not dwell in the house always; but the Son dwells eternally. If the Son, therefore, sets you free you are free indeed! (John 8:31-35 – DKV)
Thank God for the Reformation!
Praise God because what was long lost was found again, and may we be ever so careful and ever so reverent as to love it with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength.
But not only was the lost truth itself found, i.e. the forgiveness of all sins by faith in Jesus Christ, but also the delivery system that was badly broken and corrupted, was now fixed so that the crystal waters might gush forth again.
All was restored in the Festival we celebrate today – for which we must fall on our faces before our gracious God in praise and thanksgiving. Because it was not Luther or Melanchthon or Chemnitz or the other Reformers who did this, but God himself did this.
For a time he let his church go into captivity because his people were unfaithful and lived as if there were no God. Yes, his own people. And so he did what he did. And it appears he is doing it again in America. The gospel is elusive, and fleeing our shores and making its way to Africa and Asia. Indeed one day they may send missionaries here.
But back to the point, Luther did not do this, nor do we, or all the so-called “church growth experts” in the world have the power to maintain it, but only the Holy Spirit, to whom we earnestly pray.
Nonetheless a golden miracle occurred in the world in 1517. One so divine that 506 years later, and 4000 miles away from ground zero, we are able to freely enter this House of God today, this Lutheran Church, and enjoy all the benefits of the Lutheran Reformation. Namely the Truth that Jesus redeemed us from sin, death, Satan and every misery by his holy, innocent suffering and death. And that we are now free of those otherwise unconquerable foes by faith.
Now we say “Lutheran” Reformation because this original Reformation spawned others. Most notably the Radical Reformation which is still alive and well in the big box churches where divine grace, if it exists there, if in short supply.
And the English Reformation which has always been a mixed blessing. It gave us some of the greatest Christian hymns ever written: Hark The Herald, Joy To the World, Holy Holy Holy and thousands more. But it also in these last days has canonized the homosexual sin; so that from the same fountain comes water both pure and foul. A fountain to avoid.
Now as you may know the Roman Catholic priest, Father Martin Luther, never meant to start a revolution, but a Reformation. But things quickly got out of control and what was meant to be one thing became something else.
On the bright side the Lutheran Reformation restored the gospel to the church. “The power of God unto salvation for all who believe.” (Rom. 1:16) The case was just as Jesus says in today’s gospel: “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
It liberated the spiritually oppressed from false doctrines, and false practices, which lead to more despair and eternal death. So that the mediaeval church had become a merchant of spiritual death.
Our mission is not to trash others today, but we must understand what was lost, and what was re-discovered. The forgiveness of deadly sins was not a gift freely given then. But something to be purchased by prescribed behaviors, and monetarily by indulgences; wherein a person could be freed from sin if he had the money to buy what amounted to a “get out of fail free” from the church.
It was this love for freedom in Christ, installed in them by the Holy Spirit, that caused the Reformers to risk their “goods, fame, child and wife” All this to restore the “eternal gospel” to “all peoples of every nation, tribe, tongue and people” – just as we heard in our first reading today.
But it was not only doctrine that had to be restored but also practice; such as the fact that it was only necessary to “attend” mass, not to participate in it. Not to receive the Body and Blood to obtain the benefits. The priest did that in the presence of the people and for the people. They only had to attend. Nothing more.
But just as egregious was the teaching that the Heavenly Father, and Lord Jesus Christ were inaccessible to the people, and that if they wanted to invoke God, to ask for any need, they had to do so through the saints and especially the Blessed Virgin Mary.
But what could that mean except that neither the Father nor the Son are interested in the prayers of this people. And that was less than genuine when he says, “In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.”
Finally Luther was forced to take a giant step that few have ever taken in church history (until 1960 leastways), and compose a new mass. Not a new one per se but a purified one in which our Lord Jesus Christ is its Alpha and Omega, and in the language of his people, German in this case, so they could finally understand what they were praying.
The form of the Mass we celebrate today is that Mass; called Luther’s Deutsche Massa or German Mass. If it doesn’t flow as smoothly as the liturgy we normally follow that is only because the Reformer had to do in a few months, what has always taken many men, many generations to do.
The subsequent history of the Reformation and the Lutheran Church through the ages is a study all its own! One that will satisfy the pious mind like no other. Many times in its history even this purified Lutheran church ‘fell off the wagon” for periods of time, and became insipid. And then it rose again and declined again: most recently as we say beginning in the late 1960’s.
But at this present time, 506 years after its birth, the Lutheran Reformation is sprouting new and healthy branches. And by the dedicated work of organizations such as the Lutheran Heritage Foundation it is spreading to all the nations and languages of the earth; so that other people, far away from here, can have the great blessings that we enjoy every Lord’s Day. Amen.