As the years have gone by, this festival which we know as Reformation has suffered from many distractions.
For example, many even among our own people are more likely to think of October 31st as Halloween than as Reformation Day.
In recent years many churches have relabeled this church festival as the Festival of Reconciliation rather than Reformation. Reconciliation is so much nicer a sentiment during these ecumenical times than reformation is. By its very nature reformation declares that something was wrong, that something had to be corrected, that there were important issues at stake, and so there were. Those were issues of doctrine–the teachings of Holy Scripture that show us the way of life and salvation.
Yes, reconciliation has become the word for these modern times. More and more churches line up to be reconciled to one another at the expense of doctrine, at the expense of the gospel truth. The importance of the truth has been diminished. Differences in doctrine have been ignored. All this in favor of focusing on matters where there is unity, or in favor of resolving differences in policy and form that can be more easily resolved. Who cares about doctrine anyway? It is so dry and boring!
Such is the attitude of too many toward the saving truth from God. In 2 Timothy chapter four, St. Paul warned of times to come when people “will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”
Beware Of Compromise
These fables have led millions farther and farther away from the reconciliation that really matters–that reconciliation which God worked, and of which the Scriptures speak: “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:19). “We were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Rom. 5:10).
It is this reconciliation that the Reformation was really all about, plus the fact that a man is justified by faith in this act of reconciliation–and by faith alone. That is the doctrine which, by the grace of God, the Lutherans of the Reformation strove to preserve against attack from within and without.
It is the restoration and preservation of this precious truth among us that we observe on Reformation Day with joyous thanksgiving. It is this amazing truth–this exhilarating doctrine–which we must be careful to preserve that our children may know the blessing of this Reformation heritage.
Our observance of the Reformation with its historical setting reminds us of how easily these truths can be obscured by fables which men devise.
It also reminds us of the bleak darkness that is left for souls when God’s truth is compromised.
So as we celebrate Reformation Sunday, the joy of reconciliation will be at the center of our observance. It shall not be a celebration of some trumped-up reconciliation of outward religious organizations at the expense of God’s saving truth; but rather a celebration of that reconciliation revealed to us by God in His Word, and which we cherish by faith in His Son: that “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1).
–Pastor Theodore Barthels