“Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people” (Revelation 14:6 ESV). Today at International Lutheran Church, we celebrate the Reformation (October 31st) and mark this day by focusing our attention on what the Reformation was all about – the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Here at International Lutheran Church, we are blessed each year to hear our children retell the events of an Augustinian monk who lived at the turn of the 16th Century in Saxony, Germany. His name was Martin Luther. We do this not as an attempt to give honor to a particular person, or to a particular point in time, but rather to experience again the freeing power of the eternal gospel which was so impactful for his life and times. In many respects his life was not too different than anything we have experienced – the ups and downs of global change, a technological revolution, the transformation of society, and even a worldwide pandemic! What he found comforting and encouraging while digging through the pages of Holy Scripture is the same good news we need today. His life was set free from fear by the free gift of God made manifest and proclaimed to all people – namely that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15).
Interestingly, the term “free gift” gets highlighted by my computer because it is a redundancy. A gift by nature is free. Yet so often when it comes to “free things,” there is usually some kind of catch or gimmick. As much as we would love to believe it, we have come to learn that nothing is free. A “free subscription” likely means that the first month is free, but then at some point you will need to pay. While we would like to believe there really is something called a “free lunch,” we all know it does cost someone, somehow, somewhere. This is also why the Gospel, the Good News of God in Christ, gets added to and layered with “expectations” or something that we are responsible for. Even as the Gospel was first being shared, Paul wrote about how easy and subtle it is to add to it in such a way as to make it seem that we are worthy of the promises in the Gospel (see the opening of Galatians 1).
In our first reading today, we hear again the testimony of the Apostle John in the book of Revelation as John shares with us the wonderful and amazing truth that the Gospel, while eternal and never changing in nature, is for every tribe, people, nation, and language. At the height of incredible persecution and rejection, John was allowed to see how this message was going to change the entire world as it spoke into the lives of ordinary men and women. Centuries later, Luther was just one of these many individuals whose life was transformed by the central truth of God’s act to remove our guilt and shame in His work to destroy the power of sin and death once and for all. This is the Gospel that on the cross Jesus paid for us all the price we could never afford. Throughout this year, we have been reading through the Gospel of Mark. In his account of the life of Jesus he makes clear that the good news is not just an idea. It is a living person – Jesus. Jesus is the Good News because He has made us right with God and one another. There is nothing for us to add. There is nothing we can do to earn this great gift.
Just as Luther sought to bring this Gospel to the people of his native Germany and beyond, so today the Gospel is being brought into the homes and lives of people from around the world. Yes, God is our fortress and strength, our help in every age. As we hear these glad tidings today, we remember that we are also called to make this eternal Gospel known to all people.