Thursday, November 01, 2012

Reformation Day —
God’s True Purpose for His Church

When I was a teenager, our family needed to clear some acreage of the briars and palmettos and undergrowth and to level the ground for seeding.  We had a small tractor with various implements.  My father entrusted much of the work to me as the eldest son.

The work included pulling out various palmettos and stumps, plowing and then discing.  One day I was discing through some very tricky areas between the pine trees.  Often the passages were very narrow between the trees.

On one pass through a particularly narrow gap, a large stinging insect attacked and stung or bit me on the back of my shoulder.  It felt as though someone stuck me with a red hot fire iron.

I jerked in response to the pain, thereby turning the wheel slightly, and running the front right wheel of the tractor into one of the pines.  I broke the axle.

I was in pain.  I needed to tend to my shoulder.  But I also was hurting because I broke the tractor.  I had broken my father’s trust.  I broke his tractor.  I felt guilty, ashamed, and afraid.

When Dad came home I told him how I had let him down.

He responded, “Let’s see.”  Upon examining it he said, “Well, we’ll have to fix it.”

After we fixed it, which did cost for the repairs, again he entrusted me to do the work at hand, reminding me to be careful.

This is much like the Lord’s way of dealing with His children, only God’s is even better.  Not only does He deal with us with compassion, love, and forgiveness, not only does He fix what we have broken, not only does He take away our guilt and shame and fear, not only does He entrust to us again the work of His kingdom, but He also empowers us through the gift of the indwelling of His Holy Spirit and through the continual nurturing of His Holy Communion.

Sadly, those to whom the most precious work of preaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments has been entrusted keep forgetting this as His true purpose for His Church.  And so, as has happened time and time again in previous times, the focus becomes shifted to what we must do rather than what our Heavenly Father does for us.  The preaching becomes “How to” sermons.  The precious Gospel is reduced to commandments that we must keep, such as “You must believe” and “You must repent” and “You must commit your lives to Jesus” and “You must make Jesus the center of your life.”

But the Gospel is the proclamation of what God does for us through His Church and His means of grace.  Through the pure preaching of the Gospel Jesus comes to us and with Him the Holy Spirit, and we are regenerated as the water of Baptism is poured over us in connection with this preaching of Jesus through which the Holy Spirit works and enters into us and makes us to be His tabernacles on earth.  God Himself works the repentance or changing of heart and mind that we need so that we know Him for who He really is.  God committed His life to us, through the gift of His Son, Jesus, so that we would not have to rely upon our weak and faltering personal faith and commitment to Him.  He makes His commitment to us the cause of our salvation and redemption and justification and sanctification.  God makes us the center of His life in His body, the Church.  He makes us the very reason for the Church’s existence, that in His Church He may come to us and commune with us as His precious saints.  He proclaims us to be saints and comes to us to reclaim us again and again and again through the holy absolution and through the Holy Supper.  He makes Himself to be the very foundation of our life so that we don’t have to commit ourselves to Him or try to make Him our focus.  He does this for us through the continual activity of the Holy Spirit in our lives, who is poured out to us and into us in our baptism.

Then the work that He entrusts to us is not a burden that we must strive to fulfill.  Rather, our very lives are made to be the fulfillment of the work entrusted to us as we live as His beloved children, turning again and again to His forgiveness and renewal, rejoicing in His goodness, mercy, and love.  Through this the world sees God’s work done in us and for us and occasionally someone actually asks us to give the reason for the hope in which we live.  Then we joyously may share with them the good news that they, too, are God’s children whom He wishes to have rejoined to Him in His everlasting kingdom of righteousness and blessedness.  Then they too may received the free gift of the new life that is in Christ Jesus in His body, the Church, the household of God.

This is the joyous focus of Reformation Day.  When this is how the Reformation is understood, every day is Reformation Day and the rejoicing truly never ceases.

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Mr. Mcgranor said...

Praise The Lord.

Unknown said...


Jesus told the Jews who had believed Him, "You are really My disciples if you-all hold to My teaching. Then you-all will know the truth and the truth will free you-all."

Reformation Day - God's True Purpose for His Church, well reminds us both of how His Spirit calls His people to His freedom, and of what that freedom consists.

Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, acquired forgiveness for all fallen mankind with the purchase price of His obedient, sinless life, capped by His sacrificial death for our sinfulness. The Holy Spirit most wonderfully applies this redemptive merit through humble Means, whether simply spoken alone, or together with water, or with bread and wine, creating confidence from and in this saving work of Christ. God the Father, who has always been minded to be gracious to us, and calls us His own beloved children, credits this faith to us as righteousness. Thus we live in the freedom of such divinely created and maintained faith, God's true and lasting purpose for His church.

Gary Cepek