From the Pastor’s desk...
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God - not the result of works so no person can boast.” Ephesians 2:8
Reformation, Dr. Martin Luther and the forgiveness of sins...
Dear friends in Christ,
On the eve of all saints, October 31, 1517, a solitary figure walks to the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. In his hand he carries papers with 95 points for debate concerning the church’s practice of selling indulgences for the purpose of raising money to build St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. This indulgence promised to convey to the purchaser God’s forgiveness of sins. With a few hammer blows the document is nailed to the church’s north door. Many church historians point to this simple act as a turning point and beginning of the reformation of the Christian church.
In the 95 thesis Dr. Martin Luther objected to selling the indulgences as a means to forgive sins for this is a personal matter between the person and God and this forgiveness was conveyed by Christ alone and not for sale.
King David pleads in Psalm 51,
”Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love, according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions, wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me.”
What are we to do with our sins and mistakes and failures to act? Where can we find the peace of forgiveness? Must we carry this burden through a life time? Some would seek solace in denial or weak excuses. Others ignore God living by the creed “I am entitled to do as I want”. But God didn’t make the world and place you and me in it to ruin it, to live in anger and division and feeling such despair. God invites us to humble ourselves before him, confess our sin and seek his forgiveness.
While at Seminary, a church history professor Dr. Anderson said that Lutherans often talk about Martin Luther but do not read his words. I wanted you to hear some of Luther’s words about the forgiveness of sins shared on the cross in a beautiful but rather grimly entitled “Sermon on Preparing to Die”.
“You must look at sin only within the picture of grace. The picture of grace is nothing else but that of Christ on the cross and all of his dear saints... Grace and mercy are there where Christ on the cross takes your sin from you and bears it for you and destroys it. To believe this firmly, to keep it before your eyes and not to doubt it means to view the picture of Christ and to engrave it in yourself. Here sins are never sins but here they are overcome and swallowed up in Christ. He takes your death upon himself and strangles it so that it may not harm you... He also takes your sins upon himself and overcomes them with his righteousness out of sheer mercy and if you believe that, your sins will never work you harm. From his cross Jesus cries, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” In that picture your hell is defeated and your uncertain election is made sure. If you concern yourself solely with that and believe that it was done for you, you will surely be preserved in this same faith. Never let this be erased from your vision. Seek yourself only in Christ and not in yourself and you will find yourself in him eternally”
Our sins, failures and the regrets of a life time are a terrible burden and need not be carried alone. God’s Holy Spirit directs us to place all matters with God. We can give it to Christ, all of it, so that we may through our faith in Christ allow God to bring to us the gift of forgiving peace. This asks a great deal of God. In faith we must place ourselves squarely in God’s hands. Our God who reveals himself in words of Scripture and His Son Jesus Christ is up to the task. His forgiveness is not for sale. For Jesus freely reconciled us to God on the cross and rose from the dead.
We have much to proclaim and celebrate this month leading up to the Reformation on the last weekend of the month.
In Christ’s love and God bless, P. Dave