Today the Readings will deviate from the regular lectionary and emphasize Reformation Sunday. This is the Sunday when we remember the stand Martin Luther took against the drifting away from the Bible that the Church of his day was doing. Luther stood on the Word alone, proclaiming that our relationship with God is by grace alone through faith alone. Let us listen closely to the Readings and see how they point us to God’s faithfulness and our hope in Him.
Jeremiah 31:31-34: The background is the covenant that God made with the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai, a covenant to which God was faithful, but the people were not; a fact that Jeremiah continually pointed out. In this passage the Lord proclaims that He will make a new covenant with His people, but not just the people of Israel, but with all the people of the earth. This is a covenant God has made with us through Jesus, a covenant that leads to true forgiveness of sins. Let us rejoice in the new covenant made through Jesus, and let us rejoice that in Christ our sins are truly forgiven.
Faithful Lord, as we look at the lives of Your people in the Bible, and as we see our own lives, we see that we are not always faithful to You, but that You are always the One Who keeps covenant with us. Forgive us when we turn from You, and restore us in Christ to the covenant You have made with us in Baptism. In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.
“A Mighty Fortress is Our God” is a great hymn we like to sing on Reformation Sunday. This hymn, written by Martin Luther, is based on today’s psalm, Psalm 46. Notice how the psalm describes catastrophic events, yet the Psalmist is not afraid, the Lord is his refuge and strength. In our world today we are seeing unprecidented changes, many which cause us concern as the “givens” and assumptions of past generations are being torn down, and the rise of global evil is mushrooming; we may be led to despair. Yet, let us remember that the Lord is our refuge and strength, and that He will keep us safe by grace through faith into eternity.
Holy and mighty God, ruler over all. In the midst of chaos and turmoil, let Your Holy Spirit remind us that You are our refuge and strength, our strong tower and fortress. Remind us that in Jesus’ death and resurrection the victory has already been won, that Jesus is the victorious Lord of all. Keep us safe in Your strong hands. In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.
Romans 3:19-28: How is a person put right with God? Is it by our efforts? Could we ever do enough good works to win God’s favor? The apostle Paul, in today’s Second Reading, says “No! We cannot do enough to win God’s favor.” God’s favor is a gift given to us through Jesus, to be received by faith. Let us rejoice that God has justified us by faith, not by good works. Let us rejoice in God’s faithfulness to us.
Merciful heavenly Father, as much as we try, we cannot make ourselves good enough to be justified in Your sight. We thank and praise You that what we cannot do for ourselves, You do for us in Your Son Jesus. Thank You for forgiving us. Thank You for restoring us. Thank You for giving us the righteousness of Jesus. Thank You that in Jesus we are justified. Enable us to live the new life we have in Christ each day, living in faith, hope, and love. In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.
John 8:31-36: The Gospel for today is packed with so much Good News about Jesus. First of all we are told to abide in Jesus’ word. Do we? Do we spend time in Bible study and devotions? What distracts us from the Lord? Jesus told His hearers, and us, that if we follow Him in discipleship we will know the truth. In the Gospel of John “truth” is not some objective philosophical concept, “truth” is embodied in Jesus; in fact, in the Gospel of John, “truth” has its origin in Jesus – there is no truth apart from Jesus.
Jesus then talks about enslavement to sin, and that only in Him are we set free from sin, which happens through His death and resurrection, received by faith. In our world today, and even in some parts of the Church, sin is downplayed as something we don’t talk about, as something that makes people feel bad, as not making people “happy”, so it is ignored. This is to violate the Bible, and the reason Jesus came – we are sinful, and we need to be set free from sin, and only in Jesus can we be set free from sin. To ignore sin is to give people a false gospel that may make them feel good, but which will not save them. Let us cling to Jesus and the true Gospel, exposing sin, and also proclaiming forgiveness and life in Jesus.
Holy Jesus, only in You is ultilmate truth. Only in You can we honestly face our sinfulness and our need of a Savior. Only You are our Lord and Savior. Keep us in Your truth, and let Your truth set us free to be Your disciples. Thank You for redeeming us. In Your Name we pray. Amen.