“For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law.” (Romans 3:28)
On October 31st in the year 1517, a 34 year-old Augustinian monk walked up to the castle church door in Wittenberg and posted 95 theses penned in Latin for the purpose of theological debate. Martin Luther wanted to talk. He wanted to know why the teaching of his church did not square with what he had learned from Holy Scripture. He wanted to know why, if the pope had the power to spring souls from purgatory, he didn’t just do so out of the goodness of his heart. He wanted to know how a piece of paper, an indulgence letter, could take away God’s punishments, as though God were a crooked jailer who could be bought with a bribe. Luther wanted to know what all this have to do with Jesus who hung dead on a cross one good, dark Friday for the sins of the world. And so began what we now call the Reformation of the western Catholic Church.
When you reform something, you don’t start from scratch. You conserve what you can and you fix what you can’t. Reformations tendto be conservative. It’s like pruning a perennial or trimming a tree. You don’t dig out the whole plant and put another in its place. Nor do you whack down the whole tree to the root. You prune selectively, skillfully, carefully. Luther did not intend to split an already fractured church. Nor did he intend to start a new church, as if such a thing were possible. This was not about shaking a defiant fist at the Pope, though he did do a bit of that later on, nor was it about breaking away from the big bad Catholic Church, nor was it, as the radical reformation believed, some pure church emerging from the impure Catholic Church. This was to be, and always is, about reformation. Correcting what is wrong, conserving what is right. And so it is today. The Church is always and ever being reformed. Happy Reformation Day!
Pastor Bryan E. Drebes
Pastor Drebes attended Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, beginning in 1997. He spent the summer of 1999 teaching English to Chinese middle school teachers in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China. He served a four-month vicarage at St. John Lutheran Church, Plymouth, Wisconsin, followed by eight months at Bethany Lutheran Church, Overland Park, Kansas. Pastor Drebes was ordained into the Office of the Holy Ministry at Zion Lutheran Church, Palmyra, Missouri on August 19, 2001, and installed as Associate Pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church, Overland Park, Kansas on September 9, 2001. He served Bethany for 14 years. Pastor Drebes accepted a Divine
“I lift my eyes unto the Hills” … Psalm 121:1