Luther's 95 Theses

We had a nice time at the Trunk-or-Treat yesterday.  There were lots of trunks for the children to wander past and lots of children in all sorts of costumes, including Harry Potter, a witch, Donald Trump, and a pineapple.

I didn't see a single Martin Luther costume yesterday.  I suppose people are saving him for tomorrow.  Tomorrow - October 31 - is famous for more than being All Hallows Eve.  It's also the day that Martin Luther published his 95 Theses.  These theses opened the door to future debates between the Roman Catholic leadership and those protesting (which later led to the rift that created the Protestant denominations).

The 95 Theses were mostly focused on the corruption related to the sale of indulgences.  It was corrupt and theologically bankrupt, Luther felt, that the church would encourage people to give money to the church with the promise that "as soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs."

In addition to this being exploitative (and a practice the Catholic Church would abandon), it ran contrary to a new theological understanding that Luther had reached, an understanding that gets closer to the heart of the Reformation.

As church historian Justo Gonzalez describes it, "Luther's doctrine of 'justification by faith' does not mean that what God demands of us is faith, as if this were something we have to do or achieve, and which God then rewards.  It means rather that both faith and justification are the work of God, a free gift to sinners.  As a result of this discovery, Luther tells us, 'I felt that I had been born anew and that the gates of heaven had been opened.  The whole of scripture gained a new meaning.  And from that point on the phrase "the justice of God" no longer filled me with hatred, but rather became unspeakably sweet by virtue of a great love'" (The Story of Christianity, Volume 2, pages 19-20).

We gave some thought yesterday to Jesus' command to love.  Thank God that Jesus also models love - that we are given faith and granted justification by God.  May our hearts be open to receive God's love and to share it, whatever our costume may be.