Reformation Reflection

I have a confession to make.  It’s really not a confession of sin so much as it is “this is one of Pastor Matthew Lorfeld’s potentially unpopular opinions/thoughts.”  So why not let it air out for the world to see.  Here goes:

I’m not a huge fan of Reformation Day

There.  I said it.  I feel so much better now.  I know, as a Lutheran, I should be pinning lists to the doors of my nearest Catholic Church and rabble rousing about.  But the fact of the matter is that 1) such activity really isn’t reflecting anything historical and 2) it’s not really a Christian thing to do.

Ok, first let’s clear up the history here very quickly.  Luther published his 95 Theses on the Sale of Indulgences on October 31, 1517.  He may or may not have posted them to the doors of the “Castle Church” which was really the University/Town bulletin board, and even as it was, the “Castle Church” at the time was more a chapel for the Elector and a debate hall than anything else.  It was published in Latin, so not meant for lay/public consumption.  And here’s the kicker, it wasn’t all that Lutheran.

Take the first of the theses: “Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be doing pennance.”

Here’s the problem “Poenitentiam agite” is a horrible translation of the Greek of Matthew 4:17 as “metanoeite” involves contrition or a turning of one’s mind whereas “Poenitentiam agite” finds its locus of activity in making satisfaction for sin.  This is evidenced by the 3rd Thesis:  “Yet it means not inward repentance only; nay, there is no inward repentance which does not outwardly work divers mortifications of the flesh.”  So much for saved by grace through faith and not by works.

Now yes, there are some gems in the 95 Theses.  Take Thesis 62:  “The true treasure of the Church is the Most Holy Gospel of the glory and the grace of God.”  Good stuff, though even here, Luther nuanced his language later in life to center the Holy Gospel on Christ.

So what are we to do with October 31 as Lutherans?  Well, maybe a slice of humble pie is in order.  No, today isn’t a day for Protestant chest thumping.  Nor is it a day to make lofty speeches about “always reforming the Church.”  That’s silly nonsense.  We should heed Christ’s Words of Matthew 4:17 and Repent.  Let that be the mark of this day (along with stuffing kids in costumes full of sugar).

If we want a day for boldly confessing the Gospel, this day as any day is good, but today isn’t all that particularly Lutheran.  I’d suggest we give a bit more emphasis to June 25, the date in 1530 when the Augsburg Confession was presented.

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