“For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith…” – Romans 1:16
As I write this, the pope is making his historic visit to the US. It’s the first time he’s been here, and only the fourth time any pope has every visited our country. As people cheer from the streets, his every word is being scrutinized, his every action examined by the media. He looks a little bored and unimpressed standing among officials and walking through halls lined with marble statues, but as he steps out into the daylight and sees the crowds of adults and children waiting to catch a glimpse of him, he smiles. He lifts his head and his hand goes up in a gesture of blessing.
This month we will be celebrating Reformation Sunday. Two years from now it will be the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the 500th birthday of the Lutheran church. If you don’t mind me saying, we’re looking pretty good for our age. 500 years ago, who could have imagined a “people’s pope?” Instead, we had a people’s reformer – a man who tried to get the church to turn back to Scripture, back to the spirit of Christ, and back to the mission he gave us. Luther saw a contradiction between the way Jesus lived and the words and works coming from the church of his day.
One wonders what would have happened five centuries ago if a pope like Francis had been around. Perhaps he and Luther would have made an alliance to work together to bring change. As feisty a guy as Martin Luther was, I’m not sure even a sympathetic pope could have put him at ease and held the church together. Despite divisions that remain, Protestants can appreciate someone like Pope Francis who holds the Gospel of Jesus as a model for the Church’s practice. And Roman Catholics make ample use today of gifts that were brought by the Reformation, like access to the Bible in the language of the people. It should be interesting to see what the Vatican will have to say in two years when the anniversary of the Reformation rolls around.
The gift of Scripture will be our focus this month as we continue the “How to Use Your Bible” series. Bring your Bibles on Sundays and prepare for a fast paced sprint through the story of salvation. We’ll have Post-It notes available to help you mark out 100 important passages as signposts in our Biblical journey. On the way, the great scope of the Gospel, of God’s design and destiny for humanity will become clearer as we watch the powerful message of God’s love emerge from the words of Scripture. Come get more familiar with your Bible, and as you do draw closer to God.