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Reformation Sunday? What's That?

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REFORMATION SUNDAY In western Europe, of the Roman Catholic Church remained largely unquestioned until the 15th century. The invention of the printing press, circa 1450, made it possible for common people to have access to printed material including the Bible. It also enabled many to discover religious thinkers who had begun to question the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. The term Reformation has been used to describe the series of changes in Western Christendom between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries. When Martin Luther protested against the corruption of Rome and the great abuses attending the sale of indulgences, he was not breaking new or controversial ground. Luther is credited with starting the movement know as the Protestant Reformation. Ordained a priest in 1507, Luther became in 1508 professor of moral philosophy in the faculty of the arts at the recently founded University of Wittenberg. Ten years later under the influence of Luther, the Wittenberg faculty of theology was committed to a program of theological reform based on "the Bible and St. Augustine." Luther had come to believe that man is unable to respond to God without divine grace, and that man can be justified only through faith (per solam fidem), by the merits of Christ imputed to him, works or religious observance are irrelevant. On 31 October 1517, Luther posted his 95 theses on indulgences on the door of the castle church at Wittenberg. Although purely academic, the theses came to be viewed as a manifesto of reform. Some twenty years later, a French/Swiss theologian, John Calvin, further refined the new way of thinking about the nature of God and Godís relationship with humanity in what came to be know as Reformed theology. This theology proved to be the driving force of the Reformation. John Knox, a Scotsman who studied with Calvin in Geneva, took Calvinís teachings back to Scotland. The Presbyterian Church traces its ancestry back primarily to Knox in Scotland and to England. Martin Luther and his colleagues came to understand that if we sinners had to earn salvation by our own merits and good works, we would be lost and completely without hope. But through the working of the Holy Spirit, the reformers rediscovered the gospel -- the wonderful news that Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again to redeem and justify us. As Luther wrote in his explanation of the Second Article of the Apostleís Creed: I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true. On Reformation Day, the color of the day is red, to remind us of the Holy Spirit, through which Luther found his faith, and which inspired him to produce his 95 Theses and post them in public. The symbol of the Reformation is shown above - Lutherís Rose - which reminds us that Christ is the center of all peace and joy given to us by God. On Reformation Sunday, we glorify God for what he accomplished in 16th century Germany through His servant, Dr. Martin Luther -- the recovery of the gospel of salvation by grace through faith for Christ's sake. We also earnestly pray that God would keep all of us faithful to the true gospel and help us to joyfully declare it to the world.
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