Remembering the Reformation

Published on 17 November 2015

The actual Reformation Day falls on 31st October. What is it really? Why remember such a day, which to most of our friends from other churches would be mere tradition?

Last Sunday Protestant and Reformed churches such as the Presbyterian church of Mauritius celebrated Reformation Sunday. I am curious to know if any other church in Mauritius does so.

For a few like me this day recalls how the light of the gospel broke forth from centuries of darkness.

Most people remember a monk called Luther and his 95 theses nailed on a church door. Luther, Calvin, Knox and many later Reformers would help the church get back to the Word of God as the only authority for faith and life. The Word ALONE became a pillar of Reformed churches.

Reformation led the Church back to the glorious doctrines of justification by GRACE ALONE through FAITH ALONE in CHRIST ALONE.

What a day that was! What a day it is today in 2015!

Last year the Presbyterians celebrated the coming of a pure Reformer 200 years ago, Jean Le Brun. We recall he was sent by the London Missionary Society but so easily forget that the Reformation rekindled the fires of missionary endeavours that gave birth to mission works as never before. Today the young generation prefers to think missions (plural) is new and belongs to para-church organisations thus blurring the miracles of the Reformation: prolific writing of songs and poems, hymn compositions, congregation singing, bible translations, centrality of sermons and preaching in languages of the heart. What a revolution in church life and practice, theology, cultural development and a return to God’s mission (singular)!

Allow me to introduce 3 characters. First, let us meet Albert Brandenburg. He was too young to be a bishop, and yet he was bishop of 2 cities, not allowed by church law then. He wanted to become the bishop of a third city. This was impossible by church law but Albert had a good friend.

Second character: Pope Leo X, from the Medici famous banking business family. Albert asked Leo for a third bishopric. Leo requested 10,000 ducats. So Albert had some fundraising to do.

Enter character 3: Johann Tetzel. His job was to raise funds by selling indulgences supplied by the pope. These indulgences provided for sins to be forgiven, past sins as well as present and future ones.

Luther was very much disturbed by this matter. Further, on the 1st November that year many pilgrims would be coming to his city to genuflect before newly acquired relics to gain years off purgatory, like 100 years or even more.

Luther wrote 95 theses, nailed them on the church door inviting the public to take a fresh look at their faith life: you are not saved by deeds but by faith.

He chose the eve of All Soul’s Day, before pilgrims would start buying indulgences and kneel before the relics to gain release from purgatory.

The Reformation was an invitation to return to the Word of God. The day that I love to remember and celebrate is not about Luther but about the Word of God. It is a celebration of the beauty and power of a liberating gospel.

Not many churches remembered the Reformation on Sunday 25th October, nor the following 1st November, because concentration would have been on loved ones who have passed away. It is sad that even the Presbyterians - the only testimony in Mauritius of the Reformation – struggle to identify with events that marked a revolution in church history. The modern evangelical circles are beginning to drop justification by faith, and the Word is losing its centrality due to emphasis on experiences such as Praise & Worship and other spiritual manifestations. And we feel isolated to claim we are of the Reformation.
Today we can remember the Reformation as an event that inspired new life into the church and made the world richer with billions of followers of Messiah Jesus. Today we can remember that the question “What must I do to be saved?” is still pertinent and the Reformed believer can still propose justification by GRACE ALONE through FAITH ALONE in CHRIST ALONE.

Remember today to keep the light of the liberating gospel in the centre of your life.

La version française.