So what does it matter that Martin Luther began the reformation of the Church back in 1517? We live in 2012 and are facing the effects of Hurricane Sandy as it devastates the northeastern part of this country. Who cares about a little known monk that lived in the 16th century? What does it matter for us today - for we don't worry about indulgences, the buying of salvation, etc. We live in the Gospel time, a time when we know that salvation is a free gift given to us entirely by faith in Jesus Christ.
The fact is that we still try to make our works the important thing for salvation. We need to go to church more in order to grow stronger in faith. We need to support the work of social ministry more in order to further our faith. We need to...wait a minute! If we need to do those things, then our faith hinges on our actions and what we do. If that is the case, then our salvation is based partly on our actions and we have something in which we can boast! All right! Look at us! We are strong Christians! We are able to help God out in our lives by doing these things.
Wrong! That is moving back into works righteousness. The moment we are helping out our faith, then we are doing the same as back in Luther's day. We may not be buying an indulgence but we are buying something with our works.
But don't we have to do to worship? Aren't we supposed to help our fellow man? Of course we are. But that doesn't further our standing with God. It doesn't strengthen our faith. Those flow from our faith that is entirely a gift to us from God. He is the One that strengthens our faith through Word and Sacrament. He is the One who gives us the power we need to help our fellow man. He is the One who brings us to worship, feeds us in worship and strengthens our faith in worship. We receive from His gracious hand!
That is the message of the Reformation. God gives. We receive. As we live out our faith, we are doing just that,living it out. We are not giving ourselves faith, blessing ourselves, strengthening ourselves by our actions. God does that. The faith He gives to us is what leads us to help out those who are facing destruction on the east coast. The faith He gives us is what leads us to work in the soup kitchen or give to the local food bank. We do it because of all He has done for us. That action flows from God to us and through us to our fellow man.
No works righteousness. It is a life of sanctification that flows from the justification that comes from the grace of God. So help out others - not to grow your faith but because God is growing your faith. Be a blessing to those around you - not because you are trying to further yourself but because God is alive and active in your heart and He is empowering you to do so.
The reformation continues. Why? Because we keep trying to make it about us. It isn't. It is all about God working in us.