First Lutheran Church
October is the time of harvest and leaves changing color and lots of football games. It is the month of a lot of other things too, like being the first full month of Autumn, when days get shorter and nights grow longer very quickly. October is the month when Columbus first reached the shores of tiny islands in the Caribbean in 1492. October is also the month when a lot of famous people were born: Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, St. Francis, singer John Lennon, Hilary Clinton, William Penn, and Jonas Salk (who discovered the polio vaccine). My late brother-in-law was born on October 17, but only we, who loved him, will remember that bit of trivia. And my wife was ordained into the ministry on October 26, but not many people know that either.
We tend to remember dates and historical facts if there is some connection to our lives, some reason for those bits of history to resonate with us and become embossed deep in our memory. So, everyone remembers that October is also the month of Halloween, because we know all about the fun that goes with it—the trick or treating, the costumes, and the parties. Rarely is there mention that October is also the month of the Reformation. It’s not the fault of anyone. Even “churchy” people fail to remember that October is the month that Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the Castle Church door in Wittenberg , Germany, to begin the Reformation of the Church. The Reformation happened long ago—more than five-hundred years now. No one living today can say they were around to see what happened so far in the past. And it might be argued that the Reformation has no connection to our lives, so we shouldn’t be expected to remember. I beg to differ.
Oh, I know I’m a pastor and we are supposed to dig up good reasons to remember all those religious occasions that we celebrate in the Church. Especially in these days, when festivals like the Reformation and Ascension Day, and even Pentecost, are routinely ignored, pastors often hop up onto the soap-box to lament that no one comes to church when there is a special occasion. I know we’ll never get people streaming back into the sanctuary for a special Reformation Service like we had back in the days when everyone loved to sing “A Mighty Fortress” with great gusto. However, I do believe that the long-ago Reformation, when Luther worked up the courage to get out his hammer and nail his complaints to the church door, is well worth remembering.
It is said that Martin Luther was one of the three most influential persons of the last one thousand years of human history…on the whole planet. What he did influenced the course of human history for all people currently living on earth, if only in a tiny way for some, but for others, what he did has had immense implications for their lives.
Of course, Luther would say that our faith is in Christ, not in Luther. He is right. It’s all about Jesus. It’s about the Lord who gave himself for a fallen world to save us all, everyone of those presidents and saints and famous people mentioned above, and every not-so-famous person too. Jesus came for us to be with us always. That’s a promise that Luther thought worth sharing with the world. It is the Reformation message.
Maybe you’ll find a way to keep Jesus’ promise, the Reformation message, close at hand for easy reference. For my part, the days of October 17 and 26 work just fine as an aid for my memory…two dates connected to people dear to my heart and how our Lord holds them in his loving embrace in this life and into the next. And to think that our Lord does the same for me and you.
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