But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Romans 3:21-24
This Sunday is Reformation Sunday!
Happy Reformation Sunday, or as I like to call it: Lutheran Pridefulness Sunday; a day in the liturgical year when we celebrate the Protestant Reformation, and there is indeed a lot to celebrate. For instance: We Protestants are no longer under the Pope. Our clergy can marry. We let people read the Bible for themselves. That is to say, we are not nearly as ignorant as our forebears, and so today we celebrate ourselves.
Yet what do the texts assigned for Reformation talk about? Sin. What we get on Reformation Day is not a victory parade, but a lot of talk about sin and law:
· All sin and fall short of the glory of God
· All who sin are slaves to sin
· Through the law comes knowledge of sin.
Sin, sin, sin.
Obviously, the people who decide what the readings are didn’t get the memo that what we are really celebrating this week is our own awesomeness and how much more clever we modern Christians are than those who came before us.
Except Martin Luther’s ideas about sin are really what launched the Reformation to begin with. He went much deeper than simply equating sin with 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.
That’s worth a Reformation. Because if sin is only about what I should feel, what I should think, and what I should do, we will never get beyond the question, “Have I done enough?”
This is precisely the kind of religion that Martin Luther was rebelling against. He wrote that religion is supposed to be a comfort, not a burden. Martin Luther knew what it felt like for the Law to convict him, accuse him, and leave him with nowhere to rest. If you want to know what really sparked the Protestant Reformation, it is the fact that feeling this way, Luther read that passage from Romans that states, “Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift.”
Luther believed it to be true and because he believed that God’s grace is a gift he no longer accepted what the church had for so long taught: that we are really saved by the works of the Law. The medieval church had pawned off Law as Gospel and Luther dared to know the difference, then he became a preacher of Grace, and that changed everything.
That is why we talk about sin on Reformation Sunday. That is why we confess our sins at the beginning of every worship service. It’s Law that prepares us to hear the Gospel. It is a moment when truth is spoken, without apology and without hesitation, perhaps for the only time all week. it will crush you, but then it will put you back together. It re-forms us. It’s re-formation.
And this is most certainly true.