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STAND UP! BE COUNTED!

Date: 
October 29, 2017
Speaker: 
Rev. Terry Martinson
Reading: 
Romans 3:

THEME: This sermon celebrates the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation… it encourages people to stand up for what they believe, as Martin Luther did in 1521 at the Diet of Worms

INTRODUCTION

  • You are sitting here this morning because of something that happened 500 years ago…
    • This morning we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation…
    • If there had been no Reformation, you might be worshipping this morning at Our Lady of the Cape or Saint Pius X…
    • As Christians, our faith began with the followers of Jesus… but the beginning of our Christian faith as Protestants is in the Reformation…
    • On October 31 of 1517 Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany…
    • This simple scrap of paper created a storm – a revolution – that changed the course of history…
  • In Confirmation classes I teach that the Protestant Reformation was the reforming of the church led by those who protested against the practices of the Roman Catholic Church…
    • In the 16th century the church was the most powerful institution in the world… it was rich, but it was corrupt… and the Pope had more power than the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
    • The church was ripe for reforming by the Word and Spirit.

 

MARTIN LUTHER

  • At the beginning of the 16th century there were a number of people who were troubled by the practices of the church, but Martin Luther who was the first to stand up and be counted!
  • “Martin Luther was a man of vision, courage, and immense passion for the freedom of the Gospel.”  (PBS has produced several documentaries on his life… available on YouTube)
  • Martin Luther:
    • Born in 1483 in Eisleben (Germany)
    • Father was a copper smelter
    • Little is known about his childhood, but it has been suggested that his home life was hard and Luther grew up with a great sense of his own sin
    • He was educated in schools taught by monks until he enrolled in the University of Erfurt, one of the most distinguished universities in Germany.
    • He began to study law, but quickly abandoned his law studies to become a monk.
    • As a monk, he continued his studies in theology at The University of Wittenberg, where he earned a doctoral degree and became a professor in 1512.
  • The more Luther studied the scriptures, especially the Letter to the Romans, the more he became disillusioned with the Catholic Church…
    • His studies made him understand that salvation is a gift for faith, not something that could be earned by good works or purchased from the church…  at that time, the church was selling indulgences, which according to the church, promised forgiveness of sin.
    • Luther was disgusted by the profiteering of the church… he was disillusioned by Rome… great doubts set in… he began to question everything he had been taught…
    • Luther simply taught, preached, and wrote the word of God…
    • Luther believed that everyone was precious in the eyes of God…
    • He believed in the scriptures as the only authoritative voice of God…
    • He believed that the work of the church was to stand with the oppressed, defend the weak, and grow in love toward one another…
    • He challenged the authority of the Pope, which had been unchallenged for over 1,000 years…
  • On October 31st in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his protest notice to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg… these Ninety-Five Theses were a list of abuses and errors that he understood were a corruption of the purpose and mission of the church.
    • Attaching theses to the door of the church was a common practice… scholars often did this to promote discussion and debate…
    • The 95 Theses were not demands, they were points for discussion…
    • It was not Luther’s intention to create a new church or to lead a rebellion… his intent was to purify the church…

 

THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION

  • In spite of his best intentions, Luther’s actions touched off a firestorm – the greatest conflict in history – a powerful movement of reform and renewal…
    • “The Protestant Reformation deeply undermined the power of the papacy and set the forces in motion that continue to shape our lives to this day.”  (Ryrie)
    • Luther became the most famous man in Europe, beloved by many and hated by others…
    • Luther was branded a heretic by the church and was threatened with excommunication…
    • His books and other writings were burned, but because the printing press had been invented by Johannes Gutenberg at the end of the 15th century, copies of the Ninety-Five Theses had already been widely distributed…
  • In 1521 Martin Luther stood in front of the Papal Envoy and the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire at The Diet of Worms to argue his points…
    • When given the opportunity to recant his beliefs, he refused to be silenced and he refused to recant… he refused to back down…
    • He stood alone before the powers of the church and the Emperor and boldly proclaimed, “I will not and cannot recant my words: It is neither safe nor right to go against one’s conscience. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God.”
    • Luther knew that his bold stand might lead to excommunication and execution, but he was willing to die for what he believed.
  • The Reformation quickly spread from Germany to France, the Netherlands, Belgium and beyond… other reformers like John Calvin, John Knox, and Huldreich Zwingli took up Luther’s banner… the one thing these reformers had in common was their dedication to the cause of returning the church to its stated mission…
  • The Reformation marked the end of the medieval and feudal world and the emergence of a new world of a rising middle class, greater individual freedoms and rights, the emergence of nation states, and a worldwide growth of commerce and trade…
  • The beliefs that formed the backbone of the Reformation were:
    • The sovereignty of God…
    • Salvation of grace through faith…
    • Priesthood of all believers…
    • The authority of the scriptures…
    • The belief that no one is beyond the reach of God’s redemption
  • One of Luther’s greatest accomplishments was translating the Bible into German, thus putting the word of God into the hands of the people…

 

CONCLUSION

  • “Today we do not celebrate division. Rather we celebrate the movement of the Holy Spirit in our church and our hearts. It is this movement of the Holy Spirit that brings us newness and renewal, both in our personal lives and in the life of the church.”  (Bratcher)
  • Perhaps the church is ready for a new reformation.
  • In addition to celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation this morning, we are also celebrating All Saints’ Day.
  • Saints are men and women who stand up for what they believe and act their creed…
  • Go and do likewise!

 

 

Sermon Seeds

  • Several PBS documentaries on Martin Luther… currently available on YouTube
  • A Study Guide for the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation – The U.C.C. Writers’ Group
  • Blessed Assurance – a sermon for the Reformation by Rev. Frank Schafer
  • His Word, For You! – a sermon by Pastor Todd
  • Resources for Reformation Sunday – Robin Stephenson-Bratcher and Dennis Bratcher
  • The Protestant Legacy of Liberty – Alec Ryrie – Wall Street Journal – May 6 & 7, 2017

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