October 31, 2013 - Ecclesia Semper Reformanda Est
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Ecclesia Semper Reformanda Est
Even 496 Years Later!

 
The ACELC invites you to its Fourth Annual Free Conference, “Christ For Us in the Office of the Holy Ministry,” at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Feb. 25-27, 2014.
On the anniversary of the Reformation, with liberal pundits on one channel talking up the rising of sea levels due to climate change and more conservative ones on another talking up the rising financial, personal and political costs of so-called affordable health care, you get the sense that maybe not a lot has changed in the 496 years since that Oct. 31st in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg. The world was divided then and it is divided now. FaceBook friends can’t even seemingly agree on whether the answer to a riddle is “eyes” or “the door.” Ah, but some things we needn't go to war over. Other things? Well, the Reformation did usher in a time of great divide, during which many were willing to bear witness to the Truth, even to the point of shedding their blood. It was nothing new. Christian martyrs had borne testimony to the Gospel with lives freely given for it for generations before the time of Reformation. Even now, Christians around the world are martyred for the Truth.

Some disagreements tire us. Some trouble us. Some are just plain silly. But the Truth of God’s super-abundant Love fleshed out and brought to its fullness in the person and work of Christ Jesus . . . well, that’s not something we can let go of or let be taken from us, or permit to be recast by the misshapen doctrines of men. So, when it seemed clear to a German monk and doctor of the Church, named Martin Luther, that the clarity of the Gospel had become obscured and even transformed into what was no longer Gospel at all, it was time for action. He did not go to war, but took up as arms the Word of God, posting his theses and asking for discussion, study and debate.

Since then, we have learned that what was true before the Reformation is still true nearly 500 years later. Ecclesia semper reformanda est. The Church is always to be reformed, as every Christian is always in need of reform. We are in need of constant dying and rising, with the Old Adam being drowned with all sins and evil desires and the New Man arising to live before God in Christ Jesus. The daily life of the baptized Christian is the life of the Church as She lives from the diligent preaching of Law and Gospel, and the faithful administration of the Holy Sacraments. Why is this important? Because the contrast between Old Man and New, between our sin and the righteousness we have in Christ Jesus, is more radically opposed, more strikingly in contrast, than any of the divisions we can see on TV, in political or economic debates or even in friendly disagreements over Giraffe Riddles on Facebook. To put it simply, this is war.

We do not war against flesh and blood but against the rulers, authorities and powers of the spiritual darkness of this and every age. They make their inroads. They take their toll. We have their allies residing in each one of us. Too often we lay down our arms and join the other side.

We do not even know we’ve done so. That makes what Luther did, and what so many others before him did, Huss, Augustine, Athanasius and every voice that raised the cry of warning and urged us to repentance and faith, including the voices we hear even now from the pulpit and classroom, from faithful parents, children and friends, who point us to God’s Word and our Lutheran Confessions – it makes each one of these invaluable GIFTS!

Some of God’s Gifts include pastors, who hold the Office of the Ministry for the sake of the faith God’s Spirit would work in those who hear the Gospel. We confessed that so clearly at Augsburg, 13 years after Luther got the debate going in Wittenberg. In Article IV of the Augsburg Confession, we state the doctrine on which the Church stands or falls:

“It is also taught among us that we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God by our own merits, works, or satisfactions, but that we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith, when we believe that Christ suffered for us and that for his sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us. For God will regard and reckon this faith as righteousness, as Paul says in Romans 3:21-26 and 4:5.”

So that such justification by faith might not be left to the pulling and tearing of divergent winds of ever-changing doctrines, individual opinions, interpretations or feelings, we confessed WHERE such faith might be had, and by what Means. We confessed in the very next article, Article V of the Augsburg Confession:

“To obtain such faith God instituted the office of the ministry, that is, provided the Gospel and the sacraments. Through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit, who works faith, when and where he pleases, in those who hear the Gospel.”

To obtain such faith. That is why God instituted the office of the ministry. It is why He gave gifts like pastors and teachers, who are called and ordained for the express purpose of publicly preaching and teaching God’s Word in its truth and purity and administering the Sacraments according to their institution by Christ. When we talk about the Office of the Ministry in the Church today, we find it – according to our own confession – not a matter on which we may agree to disagree, like a Facebook riddle, nor a political or economic difference about which nothing will ultimately stand or fall, nor anything so innocuous as whether the Cardinals win the World Series or the Red Sox. This is a matter of the Gospel, which “teaches that we have a gracious God, not by our own merits but by the merit of Christ, when we believe this.”

Because this is THAT important, the ACELC invites you to its Fourth Annual Free Conference, “Christ For Us in the Office of the Holy Ministry,” at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Feb. 25-27, 2014. We all know there are disagreements. We all know there are divisions. We just can’t change channels or dismiss the importance of what we confess. We cannot ignore the reality that the Church and our Synod even now are in need or wrestling through and coming to agreement on this issue, 496 years after the Reformation.

Please join us Feb. 25-27 in Cedar Falls, Iowa for our next Free Conference. Visit our website for updates. There will be a conference registration link provided as the conference draws near. We look forward to an array of excellent presenters, including Pres. Brian Saunders (Iowa East District), Dr. Richard Nuffer (CTS, Ft. Wayne), Rev. Ronald Ziegler (CTS, Ft. Wayne), Rev. Brent Kuhlman (Trinity, Murdock, NE), and Dr. Naomichi Masaki (CTS, Ft. Wayne). We look forward to pastors and laity gathering, as we continue in the confidence that as Ecclesia Semper Reformanda Est, so is our God Faithful to kill and raise up again – both Synods and individual Christians – according to His Word and Promise.

Rev. Rick Sawyer
Pastor, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Brandon, Mississippi

P.S. If you would like to assist the ACELC in this effort you may encourage your congregation to join as a full Member of the ACELC. As an individual you may join as an Associate Member. You may also support our work by making a donation online. Or, if none of those options work for you, we would like to ask that you remember our efforts in your prayers – that all we do would be pleasing to God and beneficial for the building of up His kingdom of grace
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