Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. ~ Romans 3:19-28
A little bit of history on this day - a day that made this church door famous!
Johann Tetzel was a Dominican Friar sent by the Pope to Germany to raise money for the rebuilding of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. The method to do this was with the selling of indulgences - in which the person buying the indulgence was promised that the soul of one of their loved ones would be freed from purgatory and get a quick trip to heaven.
For Martin Luther, this was a non-starter. Not only did he find this theologically unsound - it is God who forgives freely, not because we buy something - but also he saw this as a way to extort poor people from what little money they had.
Luther wasn't out to start a new church. On October 31st, 1517 he posted his 95 theses protesting the indulgences on the door of Wittenberg as a way to spark debate.
That spark turned into an inferno and the Reformation was born.
Today in the Lutheran Church we say that the church is always reforming. Luther demonstrated that the church is not a static entity. We are always growing and learning. Our collective faith moves and changes over time. Things that made sense at one point in the church, may no longer make sense.
For Luther, however, and for us, at the center of everything is Christ, the founder and the perfecter of our faith. Anything that gets in the way of that - whether it be indulgences or something else - is something to set about reforming.
On Reformation Day then, we don't simply look to the past. We stay aware of our present and then move to have a clear-eyed view of the future as well.
A Prayer by Martin Luther: Dearest God and Lord, strengthen and uphold us in your pure, precious Wordthrough Jesus Christ our Lord, and help us to show and live our thanks with our fruits of faith to your praise and thanks forever. Amen.