(cross posted on Grace Notes)
Since today is Reformation Day, we planned a special worship set for our service to follow. Below is a copy of the insert give to all those in attendance at our church today.
Today’s Worship Music in Light of Christian History
On October 31, 1517, an obscure monk by the name of Martin Luther posted what came to be known as the 95 Theses on a church door in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther wanted to start a discussion in the Catholic Church regarding key doctrines, most specifically the sale of indulgences. While Luther only wanted to begin a healthy debate in regards to what he felt were some inaccurate practices and beliefs of The Church, his 95 Theses, helped significantly by Gutenberg’s development of the printing press less than 100 years earlier, ignited what came to be known as the Protestant Reformation. Over the next several decades a major chasm opened in Christianity, with the Catholic Church on one side and the Protestant Reformers on the other. While the themes of the reformation started appearing within Christendom long before Luther’s work in 1517, October 31 is traditionally remembered as Reformation Day and the start of the Protestant Reformation.
Several important themes came out of The Reformation, ones which we still hold tightly to today. Reformers such as Luther, Calvin, Knox, Wesley, Zwingli, Wycliffe, and Tyndale helped solidify these beliefs. Today’s worship music has been chosen along the theme entitled “In This We Believe”, reinforcing our commitment to them as well – Soli Deo Gloria, Sola Fide, Solo Christo, Sola Gratia, and Sola Scriptura – after all, commemoration of historical events has as much to do with remembering and honoring what happened in the past as much as applying it to our present lives. So today as we remember the past, we do it with an attitude of commitment for the present and future.
The service opens with a Call to Worship sung by the choir entitled To God Be the Glory. This first major theme reinforces the belief of Soli Deo Gloria (The Glory of God Alone). In one sense the Reformation can be seen as a rediscovery of God–a reawakening to the greatness and grandeur of the God of the Bible. It is God, not man, who belongs at the center of our thoughts and view of the world. And it is God’s glory alone that is to occupy first place in our motivations and desires as His children. He created us and the world for Himself, and He redeemed us for Himself. Our purpose is to glorify Him.
Our first congregational worship set highlights two additional themes: Sola Fide (Faith Alone) and Solo Christo (Christ Alone). The Reformers taught that the means whereby a sinner is graciously justified before God is faith–not faith plus merit or faith plus works–but faith alone. Luther discovered that the Bible teaches that the sinner must place his trust in Jesus Christ in order to gain a right standing before God. Through faith alone the righteousness of Jesus Christ is imputed to the one who believes. The Reformation rejected Rome’s requirement that common church members put their faith implicitly in the church’s teachings. Instead, they argued, Jesus Christ alone is the proper object of faith. He is to be trusted for salvation–not priests, popes, councils, or traditions. We pledge agreement with this by singing My Faith Has Found a Resting Place and You Alone Can Rescue, and then the choir returns to Solo Christo as they sing Jesus is the Living Stone.
Finally our second worship set focuses on two additional key doctrines from The Reformation: Sola Gratia (Grace Alone) and Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone). How can a sinful man become right with a holy God? That is always the most important religious question. It was the question that plagued Luther’s conscience and nearly drove him insane before he was converted. Rome had developed a very elaborate system in response to that question. Rome’s answer involved human works and merit–a sinner must perform sufficiently well before God if he would receive the blessing of salvation. But through the study of the Scriptures the Reformers rediscovered that salvation is the gracious gift of God. Man contributes nothing to it. It is only by the sheer, absolute grace of God. Bible words like election and predestination, which magnify the grace of God in salvation, were rediscovered, having been largely forgotten or drained of their meaning by the mainstream of medieval Roman Catholic teachers. The Reformers also taught that the Scripture alone is the final authority for what we must believe and how we must live. This view sounds commonplace to us today, but it was radical in the sixteenth century. For centuries the Roman Catholic Church had asserted its authority over and against that of the Bible. The authority of the Pope, tradition, and councils were all regarded as authorities along with the Bible. Against that view, the Reformers asserted Sola Scriptura: the Bible, and the Bible alone, is our only infallible source of authority for faith and practice. Today we sing Grace Greater Than All our Sins and Amazing Grace, highlighting the pre-eminence of the Doctrine of Grace, and then prepare for hearing the delivery of The Word in sermon by singing Ancient Words, a song that reminds us that through God’s Word we are changed into the people he desires us to be.
Sources: Founders Ministries, http://www.founders.org/