Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. – Luke 9:23
Today is Reformation Day. It was on this day in 1517 that Martin Luther posted his 95 Thesis on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. This was certainly an historic day in the life of the church. But sadly we get so much wrong about the Reformation and about being Reformation Christians. We use the Reformation as a club to bash others over the head with. “We’re better than you.” “You’re either in or you’re out.” “We’re the real followers of Jesus.” The Reformation, or being a Christian, or following Jesus should never be about beating people over the head. That gets it all wrong. To take the Reformation seriously…to take Jesus seriously means that we need to try and be better Christians…to follow Jesus more closely.
The church is in need of reformation today. Sadly we’ve got a poor reputation, and to be honest its well earned. People say that Christians are judgmental and the churches are unwelcoming…and why? Because they can be, and if we’re honest, they can be more often than we care to admit. Far too often Christians fill the world with anger and hatred. If you want an example just go google Westboro Baptist Church. Now sure, that’s an extreme example…but do we really feel confident to stand before the throne of the Almighty on Judgment day and say that our hands and conscience are clear of spreading anger, and hate, and fear? And if we say that no, we aren’t blameless in this regard, well then, we have work to do. The slaughter of innocents during the Crusades, that’s on us. Churches welcoming Hitler and helping in the Holocaust, that’s on us. Christians owning and defending the practice of slavery, that’s on us. And the list could go on and on.
But that’s only part of the story my friends. As I sit here on this Reformation Day I recall this text we began with and I think of all those Christians who have denied themselves and daily taken up their cross to follow Jesus. William Wilberforce fought for twenty year to end the sell of slaves in the British Empire and ultimately saw the practice of slavery outlawed. Why? Because of Jesus. Dietrich Bonhoeffer gave his life trying to save Jewish people from the Holocaust and trying to stop Hitler. Why? Because of Jesus. Martin Luther King Jr. marched in the streets, went to jail, and preached to bring an end to unjust practices of racism. Why? Because of Jesus. I’m reminded that the first hospitals were started by Christians because of Jesus. The first charities were undertaken by Christians because of Jesus. And the list could go on and on. Because of Jesus countless women and men across the centuries and around the world have left their lives of relative safety and comfort to live their faith in the world.
When Luther wrote about faith this is what he had to say: Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a person could stake their life on it a thousand times. The Christians I mentioned above are Christians that have known this living, daring confidence in the Grace of God. This is what it means to be a reformation Christian. Not that you’re perfect, not that you’ve got it all figured out; but that you are living your life of faith in a daring trust in God’s grace. My friends, that’s not a life that you keep hidden away. That’s not a life that calls you to be a burden and a hurt to the world. That’s a life that calls you out into this world to make a difference. That kind of faith is one that has seen what God has intended for this world and sees that this world just isn’t where it should be. And once you’ve seen that…once that vision is yours…then my friends, then you will not rest until that vision is a reality. And that kind of life, that’s what we call Reformation!