Prayer For Reformation Sunday
Gracious Father, we pray for your holy catholic church. Fill it with all truth and peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it; where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in need, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Lord, keep us steadfast in your word;
curb those who by deceit or sword
would wrest the kingdom from your Son
and bring to naught all he has done.
God of grace, shepherd us.
Spirit of Grace, we pray. that the unity of Christ's church may
be revealed in the faith we proclaim and through the mission we
have received. We pray for the integrity of our life and witness,
one with another, among the Reformed Churches, together with
our comrades in Christ, the Quakers, the Roman Catholic and
Orthodox Churches, the Churches of the Lutheran and Anglican
communities, Evangelical and Pentecostal traditions.
God of grace, shepherd us.
We pray for all engaged in the promotion of the Bible, for
scholars dedicated to its translation, preachers committed to its
message, and Christians of all ages seeking to be formed by its
God of grace, shepherd us.
We pray for the nations of the world and for all in authority that
they may be reconciled one with the other, that they might draw
back from war and violence, unite to work for justice and peace,
and seek the common good.
God of grace, shepherd us.
We pray for your whole created order, that the resources of the
earth may be freely shared, that the dignity and freedom of all
may be promoted and that people of all ages and all sexual
identities may live in security and diversity.
God of grace, shepherd us.
We pray that change will come to those enduring poverty and
hunger, and that adequate treatment be available to all living
with sickness and disease. We pray that relief will come to those
forced from their homeland and that compassion and justice be
shown to all prisoners denied their freedom.
God of grace, shepherd us.
Through the testimony of the apostles, you have stirred up the
gifts of your grace. And through the witness of Martin Luther,
other saints and martyrs of the Reformation era, and saints and
angels throughout the generations, you have recalled us to the
life of faith.
Rejoicing in this expansive communion of the faithful, we pray
that, with all who live and die in faith and hope, we may share
in the life of your abundant promises.
God of grace, shepherd us.
Loving God, today is Reformation Sunday, the recognition of a particular time of the
church's history where the message of the Gospel grew stale in the functions of the church,
where grace seemed to be replaced with obligation, where truth was shrouded in
bureaucracy. We recognize this time not as a monument to the past but a mission moving
forward. Our longing for comfort can make the Gospel message adapt to our standards
instead of the reverse. We are but human, holy God, blessed yet sinful, faithful yet broken,
seeking you throughout our lives, and we pray for a Reformation Sunday every Sunday, a
recommitment to your timeless ideals often shrouded in staleness and comfort.
Holy God, hear our prayers today and always, the ones we have lifted among our
neighbors in Christ, the ones we still hold in our hearts, the ones that our world groans
under. We pray for those who struggle with the brokenness of the world that imposes on
them as poverty, abuse, and so many other tortures. We pray for those who struggle with
illness, mental, physical or otherwise. We pray that we may be the faithful agents of
Christ's Holy Kingdom, bringing it forth as we follow Christ out of joy, not out of fearful
obligation. We pray all these things in his Holy Blessed Name as we pray together the
prayer he taught us, saying
When I was in seminary, I took a class on Medieval Christianity. The course
instructor wasn't on staff; he was an adjunct instructor who specialized in this area but
normally didn't teach at the school. He led a particularly open class, focused on discussion
and learning the material. I remember when it came time for the final project, I had a list of
questions. I was used to the grad school mentality of getting every detail down so I could
get the best possible grade. When we had our conversation, he made a joke about the
requirements, making it seem more strict than the directions stated. When I started
writing furiously, he stopped me and said, Geez, don't worry. It's only a project. Do the
best you can and learn the most you can, and you'll get a good grade.
Needless to say, I was floored. I wasn't used to this style. The final project to him
was a means to an end: just learn more about the topic and to be a well-informed scholar of
Christian history. I was used to something far more stringent; you usually had a list of
requirements and responsibilities. You wanted to write everything the best you could to
get the best grade. This instructor wasn't interested in us getting good grades; he just
wanted the best effort possible, and made the grade a secondary concern. This opened up a
world of grace to me, grace that we need.
It's a time old debate: the mix between obligation and freedom. Sometimes it's only
a show; you can be volunteered to do something, or voluntold. But what is it like in the
church? Are you here because you were voluntold? Are we called to a spirit of obligation
and obedience? Do we fear God out of the mentality that God is bigger than us and can lay
the smack down if we do not obey? Do we fear that if we don't do what God wants, then we
will be punished? Or are we called to a different spirit, a spirit of faithful following and
care? It's the question that fueled the uprising in the Reformation, and it's just as relevant
today as it was then.
We know a little bit about the Reformation, the birth of Protestantism, but it's
always important to go back and rediscover what made it important. Let's face it, every
now and then the church needs time to reorient to the faithful words of scripture and good
theology, and this was it. It started with a regular Catholic monk named Martin Luther. He
was a unique individual who read his scriptures and did his studies as he should. However,
one day, as rumor has it, Martin Luther had a flash of insight in the same place where most
of us do our legendary thinking: on the toilet. Good ol' Marty rediscovered an important
facet of the scriptures, lost in history: we are saved by God's grace, not the work of our own
hands. This prompted him to write his 95 Theses explaining his theological differences
with the Catholic Church and posted them for all God's people to see. He was
excommunicated, removed from Catholic fellowship, and thus began the Reformation that
allows us to sit here in God's house today. It was about a twist of theology that reminds us
what service to God looks like, and it begins with how we relate to our Creator and what
our Creator calls us to do. And it starts with how we see our God and what that means.
We are called to fear God. Fear of God is an expression used a lot in scripture,
and it's easy to get confused on what it means. It sounds so very punitive, that God is the
almighty parent that knows all, sees all, and punishes much. But I don't think that's the
wisdom of what is being said. Sure, God knows all and sees all, but is God looking down us
with that cosmic clipboard, making checks on the Good and Bad columns? Is God
watching us at all times knowing if you are doing good in your life or messing it all up,
affecting the rewards we get at the end? No. I am not describing God. In fact, I just
described Santa Claus. He knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you're awake, he
knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake! It's not like that with
God. The God we serve, the Gospel we proclaim is not rewards and punishments; it's grace
with accountability, and there's a clear difference.
Think about it this way, and before you take it too far, let me explain. Let fear of God
be likefear of spouse or fear of your best friend. Yep, I'm going to explain. When you love
another person, when you truly care for them and wish their best well being, they become
someone you want to please. You want them beside you at every point, and you want to
make them happy and joyful. You want them to be proud of you, to be excited for you in
the good times of life, to cry with you in the worst times of life. Ultimately, you never want
to disappoint them. To disappoint them is its own personal kind of torture, because it's a
personal defeat. You feel bad because your love for the other has driven you to please
them, to care for them as they have cared for you. This is the joyful obedience God calls us
towards: service because we want to, not because we are fearful not to.
Jesus says in the Gospel of John that he now calls us friends, not servants, because
servants do not know what the Master is doing. We are friends of Christ, and when you
think about that kind of friendship, it's the same way. We long not do disappoint our Lord
because it is painful to think about disappointing him. We long to serve because we want
to, because it brings us joy to do so. It's no longer bound in lawfulness and punitive
sanctions. As Romans tells us today, the Law does not justify. It's not about fearful
obedience and obligation. It's about the spirit of free service, service so devoted to our
Lord. It's not because we fear him out of fearfulness of punishment but desire to please
God out of our deepest love for God.
As you may know, my wife and I are raising our third guide dog puppy, Willoughby.
It's not an easy thing, raising a puppy for such an important calling. It takes a lot of work,
and even then, half of them just aren't suited for the job. They might not grasp an
important piece of training. They might have a fear that prevents them from doing what
they need to do or just have a personality not suited for the task. We are learning new
things and new means of teaching at every turn, but the key behind the training is you have
to make them want do what they need to do. It has to be a very trusting relationship. For
example, lying on their back. To a dog, an animal with an strong natural instinct, this is a
vulnerable position. It leaves them open to attack or injury. But it's something they have to
do with a blind person. So, you have to convince them it's a safe thing to do. If you force
them to lie on their back, they won't just not do it. They will fight back because you are a
threat. Animal instincts take over. So, one has to show the dog over time that you are safe,
you will take care of them. It's not about to imposing your will on the dog but teaching him
or her that the right thing to do is the most rewarding and, well, fun thing to do. The key
with these dogs is that it's not about punishment. You nurture them with positivity along
the way, and they will be your friend for life. If they violate the appropriate boundaries you
set out, they get something positive taken away, like your attention. To these packoriented animals, yeah, that hurts.
To some this may sound too fluffy, too easy, too much lacking teeth, but that's really
the means of the Gospel. God calls us to a spirit of freedom, a spirit of willingness, not a
spirit of imposed obedience. That was the spirit of the Law, the spirit that Christ abolished.
That's also the point of this passage from Romans: the point of the law is not gone, just how
we relate to it. Christ said he came to fulfill the law, not to bring it to destruction. The
spirit, though, has changed. God calls us to follow because we want to follow, not because
we are too fearful not to follow. If you think about it, it's the way we want to be related to.
We want to know we are loved and cared for, that we can trust instead of enforced upon.
We are indeed freed for joyful service, we are able to do the job because we want to,
because we trust the one in charge more than fearing the punishment. That is the heart of
the Gospel of Freedom, the Gospel we follow in joyful love, not in the anxiety of fear.
This, after all, is Reformation Sunday. We remember on this day the act of the
pastor Martin Luther so many, many years ago, renewing the call of grace in a punitive
world. Perhaps we are in the midst of a new Reformation. We are in a world that hears
Christianity telling people what to do and where to go. We are in a world where people
hear Christianity and it sounds like rule-following and moralistic nit-picking. It sounds
like parents telling kids what to do instead of helping them find their way in a complicated
world. But this isn't the way of Christ. This isn't faithful service; it's directive. Instead, we
need a new period of grace with accountability. The world needs reminding that the
Gospel of Jesus Christ is about grace that calls people to faithful lives, not the binding law
dictating right action. It's not about coming to church alone but living that Gospel life
outside of the church that makes people want to come in and see what it's all about. The
world needs reminding that Christ is with us, God goes with us, the Spirit directs us in
faithfulness, but sometimes our humanity gets in the way. That says nothing about the
importance of the church in our age. We are just as important as ever, and maybe we need
that time of Reformation to come back to the ideals that made it all worthwhile. It's not
punitive rule following. It's not fluff saying that everything will always be all right in this
life when we follow Christ. It is about life having meaning that transcends our daily tasks,
that gives meaning to how we interact with each other and the greater work we do in the
world under the banner of the Gospel.
We are never exempt from the question, so I'll ask it to you now. Where do you
need a reformation in your life? Is it something small or something that can lead to a bigger
question? Is it a bad habit or is it something you just need to let go of? Is it anger that
brings you down? What is getting in the way of the Gospel life? The assignment is before
you, and the instructor stands ready to guide us toward a good project. Don't do it because
you are focused on the good grade because the work of the assignment is the point. Do it
because you want to please the instructor, for the instructor wants you to learn the lessons
you need to in order to make the journey worthwhile. Thanks be to God! Amen and amen.
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.
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.
Dear Lord Jesus, how could your church ever forget, lose or reject this glorious gospel? What circumstances created the necessity for Martin Luther to nail his Ninety-Five Theses to the front door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg on October 31, 1517? Why would we ever choose some other way of salvation over the way of grace? Rhetorical questions indeed, for I know my own proud and foolish heart.
I know that by nature I'm allergic to grace; and by notion, I want to believe there's something I can do to make God accept and love me. But the gospel declares me to be a whole lot worse off than I can imagine, and certainly a whole lot worse than I want to acknowledge. I wasn't just distanced from God; I was dead in my sins and trespassesrunning as fast and as far as I could from free grace. Such is the insanity of sin.
Why was there a need for the first Reformation? Because of people like me. Why will the church continue to lose and rediscover the gospel of your grace? Because of people like me.
Jesus, how I praise you for showing me the great depth of my need and the ceiling-less heights of your provision in the gospel. Earn my salvation, impress God with my works, merit heaven by my rules keeping? I could sooner sneeze an aircraft carrier into existence; click my heels and turn the moon into chocolate cheesecake; snap my fingers and watch Niagara Falls reverse directions! O the arrogance of works righteousness. O the despair of works righteousness.
You're no mere moral model to follow; you're my perfect righteousness to wear. You don't give second chances to sincere people, you give new life to rebels, fools and idolaters, like me. I needed you to fulfill all the demands of the law for me; and that is what you did by your life of perfect obedience. I needed you to absorb all the judgment and wrath I deserve from God; and that is what you accomplished once-and-for-all by your death on the cross.
I needed you to begin a good work in me by your Spirit and that you will complete by your Spirit; and that is what you have signed on for by your resurrection. I need you to be my Advocate before the Father when I sin, not my cheerleader or coach when I fall; and that is who are you this very moment. I need and want you to come back and finish making all things newin me, in your whole Bride, and in your broken cosmos; and that is precisely what you will do one Day. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Jesus, on this Reformation Sunday, I once again affirm that my hope is built on nothing less, nothing more, and nothing other than your blood and your righteousness. On you, the solid and saving Rock, I stand. All other ground is sinking sand. Keep bringing me back to the gospel, Jesus; keep bringing me back to the gospel plus nothing for my everything. So very Amen I pray, in your most holy and gracious name.
On this Reformation Sunday, we thank you for those persons you have poured your spirit into that then set about reforming your church. We thank you that you are still at work in the life of the church reforming us reshaping us, and remaking us into your image.
One of the ways we reflect your image Lord is how we care for one another with love, care and prayer. We pray for those who are in the hospitals today. We pray for those at home with illnesses, pains and recovering from treatments and/or surgeries. We pray for those in nursing homes and those who are home bound. We pray for their families during these times. We pray for those who are facing death. We pray for those who have died and for those who are grieving. We pray for their Doctors, nurses, health care workers and care takers.Lord may we reflect your image in our love, care and prayer that we put to action for these your children.
We reflect your image in how we love, care and pray for the world. We pray for those around the world who as Christians face imprisonment and martyrdom. We pray for those who countries torn by civil war. We pray for those living in poverty. We pray for those who live in starvation. We pray for those who are being used in slave labor, child labor and sex labor. We pray for those who have been effected by disasters such as those in Indonesia because of the earthquakes and Tsunamis. We pray for those in disaster areas who face outbreak of diseases such as Haiti with the cholera outbreak. We pray for our country as this Tuesday we vote for new leadership. Lord, may we put into action our love, care and prayers for the world.
Lord, we pray for your church that we be a beacon of hope, grace, love and light in this world. May our open doors reflect your open arms to all. May our arms and hands reaching out to those in need reflect your love for all. May our forgiveness of one another reflect your forgiveness for all.
Waken our hearts, O Lord, our God;
make them ever watchful to serve You and Your purposes.
Trouble us with the smallness of our vision and work.
Trouble us with the greatness of Your command to make disciples of all nations.
Trouble us with Your great love for sinners and our own slowness to make You our greatest love.
Trouble us with the brevity of our lives and time, talent, and treasure not invested in eternity.
Comfort us by drawing us to Yourself with the cords of Your
Comfort us, O Lord, with the assurance of our salvation and
unending glory with You when we suffer and are afflicted.
Rekindle in us a renewed desire
for the coming of Your glorious kingdom
when all wrongs will be made right,
when everything that is broken will be made whole,
and when we will trade a cross for a crown.
In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.