This Sunday is a festival we Lutherans look forward to all year; its Reformation Sunday! Filled with beautiful images, deep-seeded ideas, and rich history, this special day can provoke a sense of pride in our denomination. But Reformation Sunday is not “Lutheran Pridefulness Day.” Instead, it is a day focused on knowing God truthfully and in the process understanding who we are as people of faith and children of God in light of God’s unbelievable grace.
Luther spent a great deal of time trying to know who God was and to find ways of expressing what he learned so that others would know God too. He used coarse language, drank beer, and wrote hymns using tunes people knew and recognized. When he wrote his catechism he used language his small son could understand. He even translated the Bible into the language people spoke. The truth about God and our faith, as complex as it is, should be something we can grasp and easily share.
For instance, Martin Luther had a way of talking about sin that makes a whole lot of sense. He reminds us that sin is bigger than simple immorality. Sin, according to Luther, is being curved in on self without a thought for God or the neighbor. In that case, sin is missing the mark and it’s all the ways we put ourselves in the place of God. Sin is the fact that my ideals and values are never enough to make me always do what I should, feel what I should, think what I should. And anything that reveals those “shoulds” to me is what we call The Law. The “shoulds” in our lives are the things that make us see how far off the mark we are. And that feeling of not ever really hitting the mark, whatever mark that is, is the feeling of the Law convicting you.
Martin Luther knew what it felt like for the Law to convict him, accuse him, leaving him with nowhere to rest. And if you want to know what really sparked the Protestant Reformation, it is the fact that feeling this way, Luther read this Sunday’s second lesson from Romans; “since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift.”
Because Luther came to believe that God’s grace is a gift, he no longer accepted that we are really saved by all the “shoulds” in our life. He becomes a preacher of Grace and that changed everything.
Reformation Sunday is certainly a festival day where we celebrate and remember our history, but it should also be a day to reexamine our faith. Part of that is recognizing the truth about our inadequacies, our failings, and our sinfulness. The law is like a mirror in a room with intense fluorescent lights; it shows us who we are with every flaw and wrinkle. But God doesn’t look at us in that mirror. God shines a new light on us, where iniquities are forgiven and sins forgotten.
The message of Reformation Sunday is God’s love for us. It is a love that frees us and redefines us as people of God and as members of the whole body of Christ. In God’s eyes, we are beautiful.