Mobile, AL (WKRG)
Pastor Phil Phifer with Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Mobile joins us to talk about Reformation Sunday. Here’s a look at our conversation:
Guest: Reformation Sunday is observed every year by Lutherans and Protestants of many Christian traditions on Sunday closest to October 31st. No, we are not celebrating Halloween but it is Reformation Day, the day that a German Monk by the name of Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to the Chapel Church Doors in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31st, 1517. Luther was posting these theses for a debate about the sale of indulgences and how a Christian receives forgiveness of sins. The first of the 95 Theses states “The life of Christian is lived at the foot of the cross.” In other words, it is not about nailing 95 Theses to a church door but about the One Man, Jesus Christ who was nailed to a cross that obtains forgiveness of sins and right relationship with God. The nailing of the 95 Theses touched off the Reformation of the Church that gave birth to many of the Protestant Churches today. The Reformation became known by three great statements – Grace Alone, Faith Alone, and Scripture alone. A person is saved by Grace alone, received by faith alone, based on scripture alone.
Chad: How is this milestone observed?
Guest: Many churches, especially churches in the Lutheran Tradition celebrate the Reformation every year by singing some of those hymns of the Reformation like “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” and special worship services with other churches where the focus is on the word of God and salvation that is ours by Grace alone. Some churches go all out with sausage dinners and encouraging all the members to wear red, which is a liturgical color for a festival.
Chad: How was the reformation politically significant at the time?
Guest: The Reformation of the church was intended by Luther to be a quiet discussion among the clergy to bring about some reform in the Catholic Church, really the only church in western Europe at the time. When Luther nailed the 95 Theses to church doors on October 31, 1517 it was a huge earthquake a complete shift, one of the first things to go viral at the time because of the printing press. It caused a split in the church in Germany and a political divide through out Europe. No longer would countries feel obligated to the Roman Catholic Church or to the Pope but they were more free to chart their own course with a church freed from allegiance to Rome. A direct result was the less money went to Rome in tithes and offerings from German churches. Later Henry the 8th will form the church of England and you can trace it all back to this one German monk standing up for what he believed scripture clearly taught and proclaimed.
Chad: What are some of the changes or hallmarks of the reformation we still see today?
Guest: When you go to your church today and hear a sermon based upon a passage of scripture, you can trace that back to the Reformation. It was Luther who wanted preaching to be clearly from the word of God. When you drop your kids off at Sunday School, the seeds of that idea came about through the Reformation is making certain that children and adults are taught the faith and taught scripture. Yet the most significant thing we see today from the reformation is your bible. Luther translated the bible from Greek and Hebrew into a language that people can read and understand for themselves. It was because of the printing press that people could have a copy of the scriptures in their own language.
Chad: How did the reformation change the culture of the time?
Guest: The Reformation changed the culture of Europe and the world by a return to the heart and center of our faith and a focus on Jesus Christ and his redemptive work. Once again the church became the center of life for people and not as something that they could not understand or comprehend but something that actually meant something to them and was important for them. With the reformation they could come to worship and sing, pray, and hear in a language they could understand. So the reformation brought about a renewal of education and literacy not just for the wealthy but for the common man.
Chad: What’s the most important lesson from the Reformation?
Guest: The heart and center of the reformation is this from Ephesians 2:8-9 “It is by Grace that you are saved and this not of yourselves but the gift of God.” We are saved not by righteous deeds we do, but the righteous deeds Christ did. I like to think about it this way – We are saved by works, just not our own, the work of Jesus Christ. It is the teaching by which the church stands or fall.