On Oct. 31, 1517, on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany, Martin Luther posted 95 theses, 95 statements for debate and discussion among the scholars and churchmen. He wanted his church to start evaluating some of its practices in light of Scripture and not just do things because "that's what the church does." So he brought up issues like the selling of the forgiveness of sins that was being practiced - and he said that doesn't sound like what Jesus described.
Even though Luther posted the theses in Latin so that the scholars could talk about these things first - a combination of an unknown translator and the recently invented printing press meant that soon everyone was talking about these things and the church decided to just kick out Luther and condemn him to death instead of opening up that can of worms. Problem was - Luther didn't die before his time, and the can was already opened. The people were seeing from God's Word why Luther was saying that our salvation was "by grace alone, by faith alone, by Scripture alone," not by what we deserve or through what we do, or according to what some church says. And God's Word works. Hearts throughout that country and now throughout the world have undergone a "Reformation." Churches, guided by God's Word, continue to undergo Reformation. We have reason to celebrate Reformation.
But don't misunderstand. On Reformation we don't celebrate a man (Martin Luther) - we celebrate the tool God used in his hands - the eternal gospel. Our Scripture verse today celebrates that. In fact, this is the text that was used at Luther's funeral (decades after he was marked an outlaw). The preacher saw in Luther the messenger described in the passage - above the fray, proclaiming powerfully the eternal gospel. By God's grace, we can see all sorts of people that fit this description: Revelation 14:6 "Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth - to every nation, tribe, language and people."
And here's the beautiful thing about celebrating reformation. That can be you. You have that same tool - the eternal gospel - and it is the power for reformation in our hearts and lives.
The eternal gospel is God's great love for you in Jesus that removed all your failures and replaced them with his good. The Gospel is the message of the eternal God that became the lamb of sacrifice to pay your full ransom price, the good news of the one who called you to read this and called you his, who washed you in the waters of your baptism and feeds you forgiveness in the Lord's Supper, the message of our salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, by Scripture alone, in Christ alone and to the glory of God alone. That's the power of the Reformation. That's the power of your reformation. So Happy Reformation Day. Find a church that celebrates that eternal gospel and celebrate that Reformation with your brothers and sisters in Christ. See you soon.
Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.