This October 31st will mark the quincentennial, the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Throughout this past year, churches around the world have been marking and observing this special anniversary with special services, presentations, dinners, and the like. A feature-length motion picture about Martin Luther has been shown in cinemas around the country and on PBS. Area congregations of our Synod are sponsoring a special hymn festival. There will still be some observances beyond Reformation Day, too. Why all the fuss? What’s it all about?
Here at Hope we will have a German Dinner on the day we observe the Festival of the Reformation, and next month we will have a Reformation Fall Festival featuring a “Reformation Walk” highlighting events in the life and times of Martin Luther. Other churches will be hosting similar events. Yet the Reformation isn’t about German food or culture, or Luther. To be sure, Luther was an important figure, and he had a significant influence on German culture. It is said that Luther saved the modern German language through his work of translating the Bible into the language of the people. He really didn’t like the focus to be on him. It wasn’t about him, a mere man.
Luther quipped that it was God who went about reforming the Church while he and his friends, Nikolaus von Amsdorf and Philipp Melanchthon, drank beer. The Reformation was and still is about one Man, but not Brother Martin; it was and still is all about Jesus. The Reformation is about the recovery of the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ and its restoration to its rightful place in the Church and in the life of every Christian. Everything in Scripture points to and is about the God-Man who exists from eternity and yet was born on a certain day in Bethlehem, died on a cross 33 years later, and rose from the grave and ascended back to heaven, to be present with His people everywhere.
Some might object, “It’s all about Jesus? What about God the Father and the Holy Spirit?” Remember God the Son’s own words: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn 14:6); “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about Me” (Jn 15:26). And God the Father says: “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; hear Him” (Mt 17:5). The Father is well pleased with us only as He finds us in Christ Jesus, His Son. The change of hearts, minds, and lives in us through Jesus is possible only by the power and working of God the Holy Spirit, who is always pointing us to Christ and the cross.
There is much which we can say about Martin Luther and his influence on the Church and the world. Many volumes have been written by and about him. Luther would remind us that all of that is meaningless and worthless if it does not point us to Christ and His cross, and bring us to our knees in confession, prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.
To Christ Alone, and to God Alone Be the Glory,