Tag Archives: Reformation Sunday

The Festival of the Reformation (2015)

OSLC front Holga-ishThe Festival of the Reformation

October 25, 2015 AD

First Reading: Revelation 14:6-7

Epistle: Romans 3:19-28

Gospel: Matthew 11:12-19
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The Joint Reformation Service which will take place this afternoon is an old Baltimore tradition. Way back in late October 1949 my father told me that the preacher at the Joint Reformation Service that year would be a certain Dr. Pelikan. Only a few weeks before our family had been in Florida, and for the first time in my life I had in fact seen pelicans. And so my seven-year-old mind wondered what on earth a Dr. Pelikan would look like! Well, he in fact looked much like any other pastor. I don’t remember what he said, but as the years went by I learned that this Dr. Pelikan was one of the greatest Church historians in twentieth-century America.

My reason for talking about Dr. Pelikan this morning is that he said something worth thinking about as we celebrate this Reformation Sunday. And what he said was this:

The Reformation was a tragic necessity. It was tragic because the opposing groups could not agree and so the visible unity of the Western Christian Church was destroyed and remains so to this very day. But the Reformation was also a necessity because in the late medieval Church the Gospel had been obscured, the Good News that we are saved not by anything we do, but by what has God has done and continues to do for us through His Son Jesus Christ.

Of course the Gospel had not been completely lost, because the Church cannot live without the Gospel, and Christ promised that “the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church.” And so despite all the errors of the Church before the Reformation it was still the Church— the one flock of Jesus the Good Shepherd who never fails to feed and protect all those who place their trust in Him. And so Dr. Martin Luther was not the founder of some new religion but rather the Reformer whom God raised up to restore to His Church the Gospel in its purity.

I’ve often said from this pulpit that so many people think of the Gospel as good advice. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Or to put it in Biblical words: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself.” These words are of course true but they are not the Gospel, because the word ‘Gospel’ doesn’t mean good advice but good news. The world has all the good advice imaginable but what the world does not have apart from the Gospel is the forgiveness of the world’s chronic inability to live by the good advice it already knows, or to put that in biblical language, forgiveness for its sin.

And by sin we don’t simply think of murder and drunkenness and adultery and fornication and stealing but also of the resentment and hatred in our hearts, our indifference to the plight of those in such desperate need, our discontent and lack of gratitude for all the gracious gifts of God, our anger that our prayers have not been answered in the way we wish, our impatience with God, and lack of trust in His goodness and love. And so we are sinners in need of forgiveness of our sins.

The Gospel is the good news that our sins are forgiven by God who loves us not because we are so lovable but because He is love. As Dr. Luther sings in one his many wonderful hymns:

But God beheld my wretched state
Before the world’s foundation.
And mindful of His mercies great
He planned my soul’s salvation.
A father’s heart He turned to me
Sought redemption fervently:
He gave His dearest treasure.

He spoke to His beloved Son,
“‘Tis time to have compassion,
Then go, bright Jewel of My crown,
And bring to man salvation.
From sin and sorrow set him free,
Slay bitter death for him that he
May live with thee for ever.”

Yes, God sent His dearest Treasure to be our Saviour. And in a wonderful Christmas hymn Dr. Luther sings:

He whom the worlds cannot contain,
Doth in Mary’s lap repose.
He is become an Infant small
Who by His might upholds all.

Look to the Child of Mary, look to the crucified Savior! That is where we see God with eyes of faith, that is where we see His love. The preaching of the Gospel points you to Him. Baptism clothes you with the spotless robe of Jesus’ blood and righteousness. And now again at the altar He truly feeds you with His precious Body and Blood.

Yes, the Reformation was tragic in the which followed, but it was also necessary so that believers might again see with clarity the love of God which brought Him to the manger and the cross, the Lord who now lives and rules all things for the good of His holy Church, His Body and beloved Bride which in the end He’ll bring to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb in His kingdom.

And now the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.



Our Saviour Parish News, October 2015

Luther in surplice
Luther administers communion with Melanchthon assisting.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On the last Sunday in October we will again celebrate the Festival of the Reformation which includes remembrance, thanksgiving, and repentance. We remember Dr. Martin Luther and his co-workers, we give thanks for the restoration to the Church of Christ’s saving Gospel in its purity and the right use of the holy Sacraments, and we repent of our sins: our taking for granted all these blessings, our negligence in the use of the means of grace and in making known to the world the saving work of our Lord Jesus Christ. The picture here seen is an old copper plate portraying the distribution of the Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Dr. Luther is about to administer our Lord’s body to a kneeling communicant; his co- worker, Dr. Philipp Melanchthon, holds the chalice of Christ’s blood. The picture reminds us of the blessed truth of the Real Presence of Christ’s true body and blood in the Holy Sacrament. When we come to the Divine Service on the Lord’s Day we do not find an absent Lord, for the risen Lord Himself in fact comes to us with His body and blood in the hallowed bread and cup. Because Christ Himself has taught us that the bread and wine of the Sacrament are His body and blood, we cannot invite members of churches which teach their people that the bread and wine of the Sacrament only represent the Savior’s body and blood to receive Communion at our altar. To do so would be to say that the doctrine of the Real Presence is a matter of indifference, and that we cannot do! It would in fact suggest a unity which does not exist and for which we must pray. I fear that many people— alas, even members of the Lutheran Church!— do not understand that the faithful Lutheran Church rejects not only what we believe to be the errors of the Roman Church but also the errors of the Reformed Protestant churches. We must therefore pray that these errors will one day be overcome and the unity of the faith restored. It also goes without saying that we must at all times view all our fellow Christians with kindness and compassion.

But before we get to Reformation Sunday we have our Family Day this coming Sunday, October 11th. Do plan on being present and invite your family and friends to attend. As always there will be good food and drink following the Divine Service. Our good friend, Pastor Elliott Robertson of Martini Church in south Baltimore, will preach the sermon. Do come and welcome him to Our Saviour!

And speaking of Martini Church, do plan on attending the Joint Reformation Service of our Missouri Synod Lutheran churches there at 4:00 PM on Reformation Sunday, October 25th. The Rev. Dr. Roland Ziegler of Concordia Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana, will preach. Following the service there will a reception with good fellowship and plenty to eat and drink.

In the Calendar of the Church Year, Sunday October 18th is the day of Saint Luke the Evangelist: on that day the Church gives thanks for the life and work of Saint Luke who gave us both the wonderful Gospel which bears his name and also the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. It is Saint Luke who records the story of our Savior’s birth and the visit of the shepherds to the Christ Child. He also records the Song of Mary (the Magnificat – Luke 1:46-55), the Song of Zechariah (the Benedictus – Luke 1:68-79) and the Song of Simeon (the Nunc dimittis – Luke 2:29-32) which from ancient times have found a place in the Church’s worship. In fact at every Divine Service we sing Simeon’s Song, the Nunc dimittis, after we have received the Holy Sacrament.

Following the Divine Service on Saint Luke’s Day there will be a Voters Meeting. One item for consideration will be the time for the Festival Divine Service on Christmas Eve. For some years now it has been held at 10:30 PM, but there is now some feeling that an earlier hour might be better. The hope of the Church Council is that we can reach a consensus on this matter, and so I ask you to give the matter prayerful thought, and let us talk among ourselves about this. My own experience tells me that it is far better to come to a common mind about this sort of thing rather than to vote on it. And it is perhaps not too soon to remind you that on Thanksgiving Day there will as usual be sung Matins at 10:00 AM. This was once a very well attended service of worship, but it seems that people’s priorities today are— regrettably!— very different than they were when in days gone by the services of God’s house were central in people’s lives.

Do be sure to look at our Church’s website. Vicar Demarest has been doing a splendid job working on the website. It is by no means a finished project, but we are well on our way to having a very fine website as a tool of outreach for our parish. In last month’s newsletter I mentioned that we also have a Facebook page and a Twitter account.

And what about the boiler? On Tuesday, October 6th I spoke with the men who are working on this. They expressed the hope that the new boiler will be in operation by this coming Sunday. This has been a lengthy project but we are now seeing the light at the end of the turmel!

Several of our fellow members have been to the hospital in recent weeks: Frank Ford, Doris Goods, Helen Gray, Don Weber, and David West. As of this writing (Wednesday, October 7th) Doris and Helen are still hospitalized at Northwest Hospital. Do remember Doris and Helen in your prayers and pray for continued healing for Frank and Don and David.

The chancel at Zion Church in Detroit.
The chancel at Zion Church in Detroit.

Vicar Trent and I had an enjoyable time at the annual Saint Michael’s Conference at our Zion Church in Detroit. It is called “Saint Michael’s” because it is always held close to Saint Michael’s Day, September 29th. This conference is now in its eighteenth year. It focuses on the sacramental, liturgical, musical, catechetical life of the Church. This year’s speaker was my dear friend, the Rev. Dr. Charles Evanson, who until this year had for a number of years been teaching at the seminary of the Lithuanian Lutheran Church in the city of Klaipeda. He has also lectured for the Lutheran churches in Scandinavia, Germany, and Russia. It was a real treat to hear him and catch up on all his news. As I mentioned to the Church Council some months ago, we are hoping to have a “Saint Mark’s Conference” this April here at Our Saviour. A number of east coast Missouri Synod clergy are interested in making this happen. We’re calling it “Saint Mark’s Conference” because our plan is to hold it on or very near to Saint Mark’s Day, April 25th.

Let me remind you that we do have an adult Bible class every Sunday at 9:45 AM and the Vicar has a class for our young people. Christian education is a lifelong task— and privilege!

Let me also remind you once again that the Divine Service on the Lord’s Day— the weekly remembrance of the Lord’s resurrection— is the beating heart of the Church’s life. Here Christ the Saviour comes with His gift of pardon and peace in Gospel and Sacrament and we offer our prayer and praise to God who has saved us. By our presence we also encourage our fellow Christians. And so “The Lord’s People are in the Lord’s House every Lord’s Day.”

I must finally thank Gabe and Louise Purviance for so graciously hosting the Church Council’s Strategic Planning day at their home on September 19th. There was a very positive feeling as we reviewed the strengths and the challenges which we face as a congregation. You will be hearing more of this in the days ahead. What is vital is that we proceed with prayer for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we daily pray for one another as members of the family that is Our Saviour congregation.


Affectionately in our Lord,


Pastor McClean