Today, Oct. 31, is Reformation Day. As the church remembers 501 years of the Protestant Reformation, we are also reminded of our need for Jesus. Given recent incidents of hate, intolerance and violence, Jesus’ message and way of life continue to be relevant today.
In his words and actions, Jesus conveyed a word of God and a word from God. In other words, we know about God’s project for humanity, God’s kingdom, because of Jesus Christ. Even though Jesus was wrongly accused, tortured and executed, his word about God lasts forever. His resurrection was the divine vindication of his whole life.
In his life, death and resurrection, Jesus promoted solidarity, community, communion with God and each other, mercy, compassion, grace and justice. We all need to hear this message. We all need grace and compassion. God calls us—Christ’s church for the sake of the world—to proclaim Jesus’ teachings.
On this Reformation Day, my prayer is this: May God’s Spirit continue to reform our message so that Christ may be formed in us and in our world.
Martin Luther, the 16th-century German reformer, pastor and church teacher, is another historical example of a Christian proclaiming the word of God to a world in crisis. And Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed the word of God during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Both men proclaimed the gospel message to our hurting world in order to spread love and justice. Neither was perfect. Luther’s anti-Semitic writings still haunt us as Lutherans, while King’s personal shortcomings are also well-documented. Nevertheless, we hold dear their proclamation of the justifying grace of God. We are encouraged by their words calling for a renewal of society, so that our dreams of equality may one day be our reality.
According to Luke 4:16-20, Jesus, while in his hometown of Nazareth, read the following verses from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
If our proclamation is not informed, shaped and grounded in Jesus’ life, actions and teachings, we run the risk of proclaiming our way and not God’s. When our way is preached, we get bigotry, racism, sexism, war, intolerance, violence and apathy toward those who are powerless and voiceless. Like Luther and King, we must strive to bring freedom to those who are oppressed.
On this Reformation Day, my prayer is this: May God’s Spirit continue to reform our message so that Christ may be formed in us and in our world. Freed by God’s grace, may we boldly proclaim the love of Jesus Christ—word from God and word of God. Let our mouths give voice to hope.