This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. A time of great change and upheaval in the church. It is interesting to note that Martin Luther never intended to start a new church or to break away from the Roman Catholic Church. He simply wanted to have a discussion about current practices and how the church could move closer to what Luther understood scripture to be teaching.
Below is a brief video which explains who Martin Luther was and some of the early events of the Reformation period.
500th Anniversary of the Reformation
Five hundred years ago a monk by the name of Martin Luther, dissatisfied by some of the practices he saw in the church decide to hold a debate. As was the custom in his day he wrote out the items he wished to debate, took them to the church and nailed them to the door. It sounds rather drastic, but it’s no different than pointing a poster up on the bulletin board down stairs. The notice Luther nailed to the door of the Wittenburg castle church are known as his 95 thesis. 95 pieces of doctrine and theology that Martin Luther wanted to discuss.
What Luther set off was a firestorm within the church which would find various nations in Europe splintering away from the church as its theology and doctrine were reformed. Over time other reformers would join Luther, among them are Zwingli and Calvin. During the reformation period Five Solas were developed in response to some of the practices of the Roman Catholic church. The Five Solas are:
- Sola Fide, by Faith Alone
- Sola Scriptura, by Scripture Alone
- Sola Christus, through Christ Alone
- Sola Gratia, by Grace Alone
- Soli Deo Gloria, Glory to God Alone
This morning I want to take a brief look at two of these Solas, Grace alone and Christ alone. We will consider them through the passages we read this morning from Colossians and Ephesians.
How does grace operate? How does the grace of God work itself out as we engage in the work of the kingdom of heaven?
You and me, each of us are different in our own ways. We are all defined by families of origin, the place we live, the education we possess, the work we do and the organizations we associate with. Each of these comes with credentials, but at the end of days when we stand before God, what will those mean? What will we say or offer to God?
In Ephesians Paul reminds us that God’s mercy is abundant and God’s love is great that all of us are brought into relationship through Christ. It is by God’s grace alone that we are rescued from sin and by sin I mean a deadness of relationship with God and one another. Only through God’s grace, God’s desire is that healed. God does this for each of us, offers this gift freely. There is no one story of being saved by God’s grace that is better than another, for it is only God’s grace that accomplishes this.
If we are saved it is by God’s grace alone. Jesus came, lived and died on our behalf to extend God’s grace to us. We live before God on the basis of Jesus’ righteousness, trusting that what God has done for us through Christ is sufficient. Indeed, it is sufficient for we could not do it on our own.
God’s grace demonstrates and begs for an end to cycles of violence. It seeks restoration of relationships and healing for creation. God’s grace through Jesus Christ points to a better way of being and God offers this gift to us because God loves us and because God is for us.
Who is Jesus Christ? Why did he come? Why did he die? How does it matter and impact our lives today?
We read in Colossians that Jesus is the visible likeness of the invisible God. That through the person of Jesus Christ we gain some understanding of what God is like. I do not believe we should view this in terms of physical likeness, but rather in spiritual and emotional terms. Through his actions Jesus informs us about what is important to God. About how God’s justice works and about what is of concern to God.
The word ‘all’ appears six times in the passage from Colossians. Reminding us that through the work of Christ we are all God’s children despite our differences.
May you be made strong with all the strength which comes from his glorious power.
He is the first-born Son, superior to all created things.
Christ existed before all things…
Who was raised from death, in order that he alone might have the first place in all things.
God made peace through his Son’s blood on the cross and so brought back to himself all things, both on earth and in heaven.
This, all of this was done for each of us as individuals and as a people. No distinction is made about colour of skin, gender, social class or sexuality. All of this was done by God, through Christ alone for us.
Theologian Miroslav Volf writes, “At the heart of the cross is Christ’s stance of not letting the other remain an enemy and of creating in himself [room] for the offender to come in.” The arms of the crucified Christ are an invitation for all to enter in.
In Christ alone we live with the knowledge and confidence that those things that are wrong in the world will be made right. In Christ alone we have the beginning of the kingdom of heaven and through Christ we are invited into that work. We work for justice and we work for reconciliation in Christ and through Christ. Amen.