October 8, 2017

Hebrews 4:12 “Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”


On October 31, 1517 Luther ignited the Reformation with the posting of his 95 Theses or propositions for scholarly debate. At the core of Luther’s arguments were his objection to church doctrines that he felt were contrary to the teachings of holy scripture in regard to faith and salvation. By 1520 Rome had finally had enough of Martin Luther and his unceasing questioning of the Church and Papal Authority so they threatened to “excommunicate” him if he did not recant his “heretical” teachings. In 1521 Luther was hauled before the religious authorities for a “hearing,” (The Diet of Worms) where he was given the chance to recant his teachings or face excommunication and condemnation as a heretic, a declaration that essentially would amount to a death sentence. Luther stood before his accuser and gave his now famous response …


“Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.” Legend says that he concluded, “Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me, Amen!”


Luther’s bold dissent gave rise to one of the central battle cries of The Reformation, “Sola Scriptura.”  The belief that “scripture alone” is the source and norm for the life and teachings of the church in the matters of faith and salvation.


Luther’s love of scripture, his decision to study theology, and ultimately his willingness to risk his life for the sake of “sola scriptura,” was not his first choice in life. He began his vocational life studying to be a lawyer. However Luther had a troubled spirit, deep down he was wrestling with a desperate fear and desire to understand God and salvation. And so it was, in the midst of great “existential angst” Luther dropped out of law school and headed off to the monastery to become a monk. But even that didn’t work. Soon his ever-deepening despair led him to a decision of last resort, he would study scripture and theology. Luther said of the decision, “It will be the death of me!”


So it was that Luther was driven to the scriptures out of despair, in the desperate hope that he might find peace with God; that he might know the truth; that he might begin to understand grace, mercy, freedom, and love; that he might experience some kind of salvation. Luther did not go to the scriptures in search of hidden knowledge and esoteric secrets, he was not looking for magic formulas to make life easy, he was not trying to discover biblical principles for successful living, he was not looking for passages to memorize and recite in divinely appointed moments, he was not looking for an inspirational quote to create a inspirational poster to hang on his bedroom wall; No, Luther went to the scriptures out of desperation and in hope that he might find peace with God.


And what he found changed everything. In the scriptures he found the Living Word of God, he found amazing grace, he found peace, he found the love of God fleshed out in Christ Jesus.


Luther’s cry, “Sola Scriptura,” was not a call to understand scripture as inerrant or infallible in all matters, it was not a call to replace the work of the spirit with the letter of the law, Rather it was an invitation to encounter Jesus the living Word of God in between the lines of scripture and to begin to understand the heart of God through the life and teachings of Jesus.


Luther loved the scriptures, Luther stood up and boldly declared, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God,” “Here I stand,” because in the scriptures he found Jesus, he discovered grace, he experienced his identity as a beloved child of God, and that changed everything! He would later write of the scriptures, “The Bible is the donkey on which Jesus rode into my heart.”


(A song about encountering God in scriptures that have become a Living Word.)


      1. The Saints of Old


Father Abraham wandering man
Back and forth, through a strange land
When God promised to give you a home
Father Abraham did you still feel alone?
Did you feel alone, Did you feel alone, I feel alone


Holy Moses standing by the sea
When the waters parted what did you see
And when you walked across dry land
Holy Moses did you understand?
Did you understand, Did you understand, I don’t understand


Mother Mary, pregnant and alone
With only a dream, nothing else to hold
Did they point, did they stare
Mother Mary did anybody care?
Did anybody care, Did anybody Care, Does anybody care?


Lord Jesus, sent from above
When you found yourself human did you think of love
And when you walked to Calvary
Lord Jesus did you feel free?
Did you feel free, Did you feel free, I don’t feel free


Here I am with choices to make
And I don’t know which road to take
It ain’t easy finding faith so bold
Am I surrounded by the saints of old?
By the saints of old, Are the saints of old, Standing with me


Lord Jesus, sent from above
When you found yourself human did you think of love
And when you walked to Calvary
Lord Jesus did you think of me?
Did you think of me, Did you think of me, Think of me




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