501st Anniversary of the Reformation message of Rev. Antonio Reyes, LCP President
Greetings of peace and joy in Christ Jesus!
October 31, 2017, was a memorable day for the Lutheran Church in the Philippines! On that day we, as a church body, commemorated and celebrated the 500 years of the Lutheran Reformation. Yes, 500 years have gone by and up until today, by the grace of God, we still are celebrating the fearless stand of Dr. Martin Luther leading to the liberation of the people from false and adulterated teachings. His fearless stand is reflected in his famous statement:
“Since your most serene majesty and your high mightiness require of me a simple, clear and direct answer, I will give one, and it is this: I cannot submit my faith either to the pope or to the council, because it is as clear as noonday that they have fallen into error and even into glaring inconsistency with themselves. If, then, I am not convinced by proof from Holy Scripture, or by cogent reasons, if I am not satisfied by the very text I have cited, and if my judgment is not in this way brought into subjection to God’s word, I neither can nor will retract anything; for it cannot be either safe or honest for a Christian to speak against his conscience. Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise; God help me! Amen.”
Together with all Lutheran churches all over the world, we, the LCP, reminisced the significant event with joyful worship, fellowship and thanksgiving. A highlight of our celebration was the renewal of our commitment to continue the great Commission of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Yes, the proclamation of the Gospel of salvation, through faith in Him.
People observe special days for a reason. The observance is a way of reflecting a significant happening that took place in the past, and looking back at the years that had gone by, and at the same time, looking forward and hoping to continue whatever that special event meant for them. Celebrating the 500 year-anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation brings to mind the effect of the reformation to the lives of Christians to this day. For us, Lutheran Christians, it is 500 years of holding on to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus as revealed in the Holy Scriptures.
But, there is always that tendency for us to view such an event as irrelevant, or as some would say, “nakalimutan na pagdaan ng panahon (forgotten as time passes by)”. Yes, with all the fast changes happening every year, or maybe, every decade, or at most, every generation, there is always that possibility for things/events to lose its meaning, making people forget them.
Like for instance, a few years back, people would flock to libraries to research on matters that interest them. Student visit libraries to study and to do some research. Others go there to read books for recreation. But nowadays, there are less and less people visiting our libraries, while some people do not even have the slightest idea of what a library is. All they know is one thing, “Google”.
Is this possible? Is it really possible that in a few years’ time, relevance of the Reformation would diminish? That there would be fewer and fewer people who would be celebrating the Lutheran Reformation Anniversary with correct understanding? The answer is in our hands. It is up to us to make the Lutheran Reformation relevant even in the coming years. This is the challenge to us now, after our 500th year Reformation celebration.
Where do we go from here? What comes after our 500th year Reformation celebration? That is a big challenge that lies ahead of us now. Just like the dilemma of the library, every Lutheran Christian can be distracted and can possibly be hampered in his/her growth as a believer. There are a number of “Google-like” possibilities that may lead one to lose sight of the essence of being a Lutheran Christian.
We have already seen quite a number of secular practices, which are clearly contrary to God’s Word, that have gained popularity these days. What is worrisome is the fact that self-proclaimed Christians do not see anything wrong about these practices. Instead of correcting and admonishing, they rationalize that these are part of the changes of the times – thus, it is okay to indulge and also practice them.
Let me ask a simple question. Where do we see ourselves, 10 years from now? Where do we see our congregations? Where do we see the Lutheran Church in the Philippines? If we say that our future is still vague, or a bit blurred, or uncertain, then we need to seek God’s direction for us from His Word, which is the only source and norm of all our teachings. Through the Word, the Holy Spirit will direct our lives, our ministry and our mission. Through the Word and the Sacraments the Holy Spirit strengthens our faith in Jesus and empowers us to hold on to the three Reformation Solas – Sola Fide, Sola Gratia and Sola Scriptura.
Yes, no one knows what the future brings. But our God is faithful in all His promises and is committed to be with us always, therefore, nothing is uncertain. We pray that the Lord will keep us steadfast in His Word. Our heavenly Father, through Jesus, promised in Deuteronomy 31:6:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
A thousand years of Lutheran Reformation is always possible, as long as we continue to trust in the promises of Christ, and continue to spread the wonderful deeds of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light!
Again, the 500th Lutheran Reformation celebration is not just a celebration of the past and the present, but a celebration of the future. Let us not only claim the victory of God’s salvation in Christ Jesus for us today, but for the years to come, for the next generations.
Lastly, the Reformation question of “How can I be saved?” is still the same question that is very important today… and the answer is still the same: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” (Acts 16:31) and “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:8-10).
To God be the glory!