Greetings Family and Friends of St. Johannes!
October is a significant month for Lutherans. It gives us the unique occasion to celebrate the five-hundredth (500th) an- niversary of the Protestant Reformation, which began October 31, 1517. History records the story of a young monk, priest, and theology professor named Martin Luther nailing 95 theses to the church door in the German university town of Wittenberg, the location of
the University where he taught.
Luther’s purpose was to challenge the teachings of purgato- ry and other beliefs and practices of
the Church that were inconsistent with the clear teaching of the Bible. Luther also questioned the
late medieval church’s practice of selling indulgences – offering slips of paper for forgiveness,
signed by the pope, which reversed the penalties for sin. The letter was purported to reduce time
in purgatory for the purchaser. The church was selling God’s gift of forgiveness of sins that was
intended to be free!
For many people, October 31 is a day to dress up in cos- tumes, attend a party, and/or walk door to
door asking for candy. For many Christians, especially those of the Lutheran tradition, October 31
is Reformation Day! On this day, we celebrate God’s work through his servant, Martin Luther, to
preserve the message of the Gospel as the free gift of God’s grace in Jesus Christ through faith.
October is also a time for us to thank God for our reformation roots and recall that, as members of
our Lord's Church, we have embraced Christ as Lord and are rooted in the teaching of the 3 alones:
Grace alone, Faith alone, and Scripture alone.
Luther took his reform movement outside the Church in order to preserve the true teachings of
Scripture. The Reformation movement and indeed the whole Christian church are found- ed on the
following biblical teachings: Grace alone: At the center of the Christian faith is the assurance
that salvation is based on the unearned free gift of God’s grace. Baptism washes us and reminds us
that salvation is Christ’s un- earned gift to us. Though we are sinners deserving of God’s wrath and anger, we freely receive the riches of his love and forgiveness.
Faith alone: God’s gift of grace is received through God’s gift of faith in what Jesus Christ has done for us. In St. Paul’s letter to the Ephe- sians he says, “For it is by grace you have been saved,
through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one may boast” (2:8-9). This teaching separates Christianity from all other religions. Other religions point to what one must do in order to be made right with God. Christianity points to what Jesus has done for us to make us right with God. Through Christ’s actions and holy sacraments our faith is created and sustained.
Scripture alone: The Bible is the Word of God. The New Testament is the source for what we believe
and practice in the Christian Church. All other gifts that God has given to us as the Church, such
as tradi- tion, experience, and human reason, function to serve our under- standing of the Holy
Scriptures and faith.
During the month of October, I encourage you to take time to reflect on Reformation Day and the
core teachings of Christianity that were preserved by God through Martin Luther. Be comforted that
God continues to work through people, places and things to turn us to Jesus Christ and nurture us
through His holy Word and Sacraments. As Luther said in his famous hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our
God: “No strength of ours can match his might! We would be lost, rejected.
But now a champion comes to fight, whom God himself elected. You ask who this may be? The Lord of hosts is he! Christ Jesus, mighty Lord. God’s only Son adored. He holds the field victorious.”
Thanks be to God!
Pastor Alvin G. Shrum
The Reverend Alvin Shrum