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Reformation Day, All Saints
History, Sermon, Video and Worship Resources

Feast Day:  October 31

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Contents on this page:

  • History of Martin Luther

  • Reformation Scriptures

  • Reformation prayers and songs

  • All Saints Day History

  • All Saints Call to Worship

  • All Saints Day Hymns

  • Free Reformation Day Sermon:
    Blessed Assurance

  • Links to other sites

 


(1483 – 1546) Martin Luther was a German priest, Dominican monk, and professor of theology who is attributed with starting the Protestant Reformation. He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God's punishment of sin could be purchased with money. He confronted Johann Tetzel, a special papal envoy sent to Germany to sell indulgences. He is said to have nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the church door in Wittenberg in 1517 in order to confront several teachings of the Church. He refused to recant from his teachings and writings at the Diet of Worms in 1521. Pope Leo X excommunicated him following his refusal and he became an outlaw by decree of the Emperor.

Luther's major teachings are still found in Protestant teachings today:

  • Sola Fide - salvation cannot be earned by good deeds but is a free gift of God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
  • Sola Scriptura - he taught that the bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge excluding the papal decrees.
  • Pristhood of all Believers  - all baptized Christians are priests. There is no need for a mediator (confessional priest) to confess sins to God.

He also translated the Bible into his German dialect that later become known as "high German"  while he was in hiding. His hymns influenced the development of singing songs in church with contemporary melodies (some of them having apparently been bar tunes).

 


Scripture Lessons

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 46
Romans 3:19-28
John 8:31-36

 


A Reformation Day Prayer

Lord God of hosts, the Refuge of every sinner and the Strength of all who put their trust in you, we praise you for having made us partakers of the blessings of your Reformation. Without any merit on our part, you have sent your Holy Spirit into our hearts and brought us to faith in your dear Son, Jesus Christ. You have made known to us the perfect merit of Christ. You have directed our faith to rest on the exceedingly great and precious promises of your Gospel. You have revealed the beauty of your grace, which rescued us from a just condemnation and assured us of certain salvation in Christ. Grant us your grace that we may receive your forgiveness with thanksgiving.  Use us as your witnesses in bringing the message of pardon in Christ to people everywhere. Open our eyes to a better understanding of your Word and a deeper appreciation of your grace that our faith in Christ Jesus may grow and flourish with the fruits of righteous living.  Amen.


A Reformation Day Blessing

Almighty God, gracious Lord, we thank you for preserving your holy church throughout the ages. For the gift of the blessed gospel we praise your name. For the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection from the dead and life eternal in Christ, we thank you, loving Father. We treasure the rich heritage handed down from our fathers in the faith. Hear our prayer which we ask in the name of your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, through all eternity.  Amen.


 

A Mighty Fortress
By Grace I'm Saved
The Church of Christ, in Every Age
The Church's One Foundation
Through Jesus' Blood and Merit
My Hope is Built
The Gospel Shows the Father's Grace
Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
Blessed Assurance
God's Word is our Great Heritage
Faith of Our Fathers
Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word
God's Word is Our Great Heritage
O God, O Lord of Heaven and Earth
Onward Christian Soldiers

 


Multi-Media Reformation Resources:

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All Saints Day History

"Hallow", in Old English, means "holy" or "sacred." Therefore, "Hallows' Eve," or "Halloween" simply means "the evening of holy persons" and refers to the evening before All Saints Day, which is this day, November 1 on both Anglican and Catholic calendars. In the early years when Rome persecuted Christians, so many martyrs died for their faith, that the Church set aside special days to honor them. For example, in 607 Emperor Phocas presented to the Pope the beautiful Roman Pantheon temple (see picture at top of page). The Pope quickly removed the statues of Jupiter and the pagan gods and consecrated the Pantheon to "all saints" who had died from Roman persecution in the first three hundred years after Christ. Their bones were brought from other graves and placed in the rededicated Pantheon church.

In the next century, All Saints Day was changed by Pope Gregory III to today's date-- November l. In the 10th century, Abbot Odela of the Cluny monastery added the next day--November 2nd--as "All Souls" Day" to honor not just the martyrs, but all Christians who had died. People prayed for the dead, but many unchristian superstitions also were continued. Food was often offered to the dead--as it had been in pagan times. It was also believed that on these two days, souls in purgatory would take the form of witches, toads, or demons and haunt persons who had wronged them during their lifetime.

As happens so often in Church history, sacred Christian festivals can absorb so many pagan customs that they lose their significance as Christian holidays. But think of it positively. Who are your favorite heroes in Christian History? Can you think of any whose example has inspired you? Why not use this All Saint's Day to think of and give thanks for as many Christians from the past that you know about, whether they are famous or not, whose lives have contributed something to yours.

 

A Responsive Call to Worship for All Saints Day

Pastor: We remember, O God…
People: The countless saints of history who have blazed a trail of courage through time,
Pastor: We remember, O God…
People: The tender touch of loved ones, the example of heroes, the healing words of comforters, the remarkable acts of fearless ones.
Pastor: We remember, O God…
People: The gentle strength of grandmothers, the loyalty of friends, the kindness of strangers, the joy of children, the sacrifice of parents.
Pastor: We remember, O God…
People: The supreme love of Jesus, the blessing of his Spirit, the reminder of his words, the sharing of his suffering, the glory of his resurrection: shown forth in the lives of his disciples, young and old, dead and living, articulate and silent, strange and familiar, brilliant and ordinary.
Pastor: We remember in every time and place the saints of God who have shown us the Lord.
ALL: SINCE WE ARE SURROUNDED BY SO GREAT A CLOUD OF WITNESSES... LET US WORSHIP GOD WITH JOY!

Hymns and Songs for All Saints Day:

For All the Saints
For All Your Saints, O Lord
Rejoice, the Lord is King
Forward Through the Ages
Rise, O Children of Salvation
Faith of our Fathers
The Church's One Foundation
Rejoice in God's Saints
By All Your Saints in Warfare
As Saints of Old Their Firstfruits Brought
Come, Let Us Join Our Friends Above
I Sing a Song of the Saints of God
Baptized Into Your Name Most Holy
Shall We Gather At the River
Wash, O God, Our Sons and Daughters
You Have Put on Christ
Child of Blessing, Child of Promise

 

A Reformation Day Sermon


Blessed Assurance—A Reformation Message
A sermon for Reformation Day
based on Hebrew 11:1-2; Philippians 3:4-14
Rev. Frank Schaefer

 
   

Scripture Readings:

Hebrews 11:1-2

1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.

 3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
 

Philippians 3:4-14

4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

   If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

 7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

This year, we celebrate the 489th anniversary of the birth of Protestant church. It was in 1521 that Martin Luther stood firm in front of the papal envoy as well as the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire at the Diet of Worms.

The words he spoke on that eve of the Protestant church are still ringing loud and proud: I will not and cannot recant of my words; it is neither safe nor right to go against one’s conscience; Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God!

What is so remarkable was that Luther knew fully well that his bold stand would likely result in excommunication and execution.  In fact, on that day he was excommunicated by the pope and the emperor declared him an outlaw.

What was Luther’s crime? He believed in the Scriptures as the only authoritative word of God and by that challenged the power of the pope (whose decrees were held to be just as inspired as the bible)

Luther also opposed the church on other grounds, such as his experience of salvation by faith rather than works, and he most definitely opposed the selling of indulgences—pardons from hellfire for a donor’s relatives.

We as Protestant Christians celebrate Reformation Sunday not only because of our history but also for what we are privileged to believe in.

Sometimes the main Protestants beliefs are summed up with the teaching of the “five solas.” They are identified as:

Sola Scriptura –Scripture only
Sola Fide –by faith alone
Sola Gratia –   by grace alone
Solo Christo— through Christ alone
Soli Deo Gloria—glory to God alone

There’s not enough time to expound on every single point, so I thought I’d rather focus on the one principle that Protestants celebrate and that really sets Protestants apart from the Roman/Orthodox Church: the assurance of faith doctrine.

One of the Scriptures often quoted by Protestants is from Hebrews 11 which defines faith as an assurance of salvation: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

Luther even translated the phrase with “eine gewisse Zuversicht,” that is, “a certain confidence.”

Many Protestant believers describe this certain confidence as an inner witness of the Holy Spirit which allows the justified disciple to know they are saved.

The Apostle Paul certainly also received such an assurance of his salvation during his conversion experience as described in the book of Acts.

We can find a similar description of such assurance in the writings of many church fathers, most notable in the “Confessions” by St. Augustine of Hippo.

The biggest criticism of the Protestant “assurance doctrine” is that it has the tendency to make believers complacent.  Why would they continue to do good works if salvation is already in their pocket?  Scripture passages such as those from the epistle of James support this notion: “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:17)

I think deep down, most every Christian would agree that both aspects of salvation are very important, faith and keeping the law (which includes doing good works).

I think, even the apostle Paul in our text from Philippians had a role for keeping the law / human works in his concept of salvation. I think we need to see the context into which he is writing to understand what he means.

First, we need to understand that he came from a background where keeping the Mosaic law was considered salvation.

In Verse 6 we hear him say:  “…as for righteousness based on the law, [I was] faultless.”

Paul, before becoming a Christian, living as a Jew, never broke the law!  That’s remarkable.  Just as remarkable as the rich young ruler who came to Jesus asking about salvation and telling Jesus: I have kept all of the law, all my life! 

However, even keeping the whole law of God, did not prevent him from doing something terribly wrong: he persecuted the church (“as for zeal, persecuting the church” V6)

So, in Paul’s experience, even keeping the whole law all his life did not lead him to salvation. 

Paul does not want to discredit good works or God’s law; the purpose for his writing is to teach the church at Philippi an important lesson:  His intent is to correct an arrogant attitude some of the folks had. They were bragging about their righteous works and thought that they had earned their salvation. They thought they were better than others.

That’s why Paul opens this passage by saying: if anyone has reason to brag, it would be me. I have kept the whole law.  But that’s not what ultimately saved Paul.  He was saved by God’s grace, by faith that came after his eyes were opened by Christ himself. Now, that puts things in perspective.  Don’t brag about earning your salvation, Paul says, rather do good works, keep the law, run the race based on the strength that comes from being saved by faith.

As a good Protestant, it makes sense to me to have assurance of faith and still wanting to keep the law.  I want to do good works for my Lord, who has done everything for me. I don’t need any other motivation, and I certainly do not need the fear of losing my salvation in order to do them. That's how I understand Sola Fide--saved by faith alone.

 One of the original reformers in the 16th century used an analogy that I find very helpful in this regard: that of a fruit tree:

Before a tree can be productive and bear fruit it must grow into a healthy and strong tree.  Once the roots are deeply established the fruit is a natural outgrowth much like good works and an adherence to God’s law comes naturally to those who have been saved and made into a new creation by God. 

Good works, God’s law are very important aspects of our faith, but to Protestants the assurance of faith is certain and primary. In this theology we avoid the pitfall of becoming modern-day Pharisees while at the same time giving credit where credit is due: to our Creator God, our Savior and Redeemer.

Praise be to God who continues to draw all men unto him, who reveals his plan of salvation to us.  And let’s not forget: He who began the good work of faith in us will be faithful to complete it until the day of his glorious return.  Amen

 

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