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Thoughts from Reformation Sunday

by Rodger Johnson (WordAlone board member, New Braunfels, Texas)

November 4, 2008

photo of Rodger JohnsonA week ago Sunday morning with cup of coffee in hand, I recalled, “Today is Reformation Sunday.”

I made a mental note to wear something red, as is custom. I thought about Martin Luther and what this day would have held for him. There was time before I had to dress and leave for church and with the Internet and instant information access, I entered “95 Theses” into a search engine; in about a second I had them in front of me to read.

It occurred to me that the underlying theme of the 95 statements pointed the church leaders, to whom the document was directed, to Scripture--the Word of God and His authority over the church.

Later in the morning, during Sunday school, while studying the Scripture lesson for the day, from John 8, beginning with the 31st verse, I noted a connection between the lesson and Reformation Sunday. “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,’” the Scripture read. Two words stand out in the passage, “truth” and “free.”

The people in Luther’s day could not really know the “truth” unless the church clergy would teach and preach it to them. If the people of the day could read, they had nothing to read that taught God’s word in their native language. The people were, in fact, slaves to clergy who held the keys to Scripture. Imagine not having the joy of knowing Christ through the Scripture.

Today almost everyone has access to a Bible. We have the Internet, almost instant access online to any kind of information, including Bibles. Yet I wonder if we are “free.” If we do not adhere to what Christ said in this Scripture, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples,” are we really free? The lifestyles we enjoy as Americans have given us comforts never known by any other generation. Popular fashions, advertisements and the media of all kind influence us. These things do much to shape our thoughts, the way we live our lives and what is important to us. Are we slaves to what could be considered blessings?

I think of conversations we have had in our churches and assemblies where we discuss interpretation and reinterpretations of Scripture. Some hold to interpretations that affirm their desires and lifestyles. If we change the “truth” to our “wishes,” are we free, or have we made ourselves slaves to something else?

I could not help but wonder what Martin Luther would say about my church or any other church, in any denomination. Would he affirm the changes he began almost 500 years ago, or would he take pen in hand to write another list? Do we need another Martin Luther, or are our “Luthers” in the form of the many faithful servants, free in Christ, who hold to His teachings? Would Martin Luther, if he were here today, be a member of the WordAlone Network andLutheran CORE, standing firm on God’s word? I think so.

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.