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Reformation Sunday

 A Service of Worship

Robin Stephenson-Bratcher and Dennis Bratcher

Some churches combine All Saints Sunday with Reformation Sunday as a way to focus on heritage.

Introduction (This material is provided to worshippers in a worship folder insert)

The Reformation

The legendary account tells us that one cool October 31st in 1517, the priest Martin Luther defiantly nailed his protest notice to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. These Ninety-five Theses were a list of abuses and errors that he understood were a corruption of the purpose and mission of the Church. In reality, the Ninety-five Theses were most likely sent to his Archbishop. And the list was not really a defiant protest as much as it was a sincere call for the Church to begin addressing some of its problems that Luther felt had obscured the Gospel message.

In any case, Luther hoped that his Theses would be seen and discussed as a step toward renewal of the Church, so that people might know the truth about God’s forgiveness for their lives. The powerful passage from Romans 3:19-28 had fired his soul and he was so overflowing with joy after years of guilt and a need for forgiveness that he had to share the truth with all that he could. Little did he know the enormous impact on the world that his one simple act would have. His willingness to stand up to pope and emperor in the name of the Gospel of Christ changed the face of history, and the face and direction of the entire Christian Church.

Today we do not celebrate division. Rather we celebrate the movement of the Holy Spirit in our Church and our hearts. It is this movement of the Holy Spirit that brings us newness and renewal, both in our personal lives and in the life of the Church. When we pray, "Come, Holy Spirit!" we know that the whole Church is always in need of reform, and we each are always in need of dying again in Christ in order to be raised from the dead, so that we might be truly free by the grace of Jesus the Christ in our lives and Church. "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:31-36)

Martin Luther roseMartin Luther's Seal or "The Luther Rose"

While he was a professor at Wittenberg University, Martin Luther designed this seal which he declared was meant to be "expressive of his theology." The following letter was written to his friend, Herr Spangler, town clerk in Nuremberg, Germany and expresses his thoughts on his seal.

July 8, 1530

Grace and peace in Christ!

Honorable, kind, dear Sir and Friend!

Since you ask whether my seal has come out correctly, I shall answer most amiably and tell you of those thoughts which now come to my mind about my seal as a symbol of my theology.

There is first to be a cross, black, and placed in a heart, which should be of its natural color (red), to put me in mind that faith in Christ crucified saved us.  For if one believes from the heart, he will be justified.  Even though it is a black cross, which mortifies and which also should hurt us, yet it leaves the heart in its natural color and does not ruin nature ... that is, the cross does not kill, but keeps man alive.  For the just shall live by faith, by faith in the Savior.

Such a heart is to be in the midst of a white rose, to symbolize that faith gives joy, comfort, and peace. In a word, it places the believer into a white joyful rose, for this faith does not give peace and joy as the world gives.  Therefore, the rose is to be white, not red, for white is the color of the spirits and of all angels.

This rose, moreover, is fixed in a sky-blue field, symbolizing that such joy in the Spirit and in faith is a beginning of the future heavenly joy.  It is already a part of faith, and is grasped through hope, even though not yet manifest.

And around this field is a golden ring, to signify that such bliss in heaven is endless, and more precious than all joys and goods, just as gold is the most valuable and precious metal.

May Christ, our dear Lord, be with your spirit until the life to come.  Amen.

-(letter from Luther's Works, American Edition; Volume 49, pp. 356 – 359)

The Service

(* = Congregation standing)


Welcome - Community Events

*Call to Worship

*Song: Come and Gather Beneath the Tree of Life

*Minister: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all!

*People: And also with you!

*Minister: Let us pray together: O God, you are our refuge and our strength

*People: A very present help in times of trouble, therefore we will not fear.

*Minister: O God, you made an everlasting covenant with us.

*People: Help us to be your people in this world of trial and trouble.

*Minister: O God, too often we have sinned and have fallen short of your glory.

*People: Search us, O God, and know our hearts; test us and know our thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in us, and lead us in the way everlasting.

*Minister: O God, we have embraced the freedom you offer us.

*People: We embrace the Son who makes us free.

*Minister: O God, we honor the bold faith of our brothers and sisters in Christ who have gone before us.

*People: May we each be as bold in our faith this week as we cry "Come, Holy Spirit!", help us to die again and again in Christ so that we might be truly free. Amen.

Hymn: A Mighty Fortress is Our God

The Written Word for Us Today

All: You gave us the living Word. Help us to listen to it, to live it, and to be bold enough to let it change our lives, and the lives of those with whom we come in contact each day. Amen.

[Optional] Song: Ancient Words

First Reading: Jeremiah 31:31-34

Alternate: Habakkuk 2:1-4

Second Reading: Romans 3:19-28

Alternate: Philippians 3:1-9

Alternate: Galatians 3:6-11

Reader: This is the Word of the Lord to you.

People's Response: Thanks be to God.

*The Gospel: John 8:31-36

*Response to the Reading of the Gospel (Sung):

All: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Amen.


[For an example of a Reformation Sunday homily, see Faith and Identity:  A Reformation Meditation]

Confession and Forgiveness:

Minister: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

People: Amen.

Minister: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

People: If we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

(Silence for reflection and self-examination)

Minister: Almighty and most merciful God,

All: We confess that we are unworthy servants. We have not always acted as children of God. We confess that we have left undone things we should have done, and we have done and said things that we should not have done and said. For those times when we have sinned against you even unintentionally, we ask your forgiveness. We truly deserve only condemnation. But we pray that you, for the sake of Jesus Christ, your obedient and faithful Son, will forgive us and increase our faith, that we may rise to live before you in righteousness and true holiness.

Minister: Jesus Christ abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. For his sake, and in his name, I proclaim to you the grace and mercy of God, by which he forgives our sin and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

People: Amen.

Passing the Peace of Christ

Minister: Peace be with you.

People: And also with you

Minister: Let the people of God show signs of grace and friendliness to each other.

Prayers for the People of God

Pastoral Prayer [See Prayers of the People]

followed by Our Lord's Prayer:

All: Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Our Tithes and Offerings

Response to Offering

All - Doxology: Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him above, ye heavenly hosts. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen."

Affirmation of Faith: Apostles’ Creed

All: I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord: who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit; the Holy Christian Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

The Eucharist Table

Hymn: Let Us Break Bread Together

Words of Life and Consecration

Minister: The Lord be with you.

People: And also with you.

Minister: Lift up your hearts.

People: We lift them up to the Lord.

Minister: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

People: It is right to give our thanks and praise.

Minister: Minister: It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. You formed us in your image, and breathed into us the breath of life. When we turned away, and our love failed, your love remained steadfast. You delivered us from captivity, made covenant to be our sovereign God, and spoke to us through your prophets. And so, with your people on earth and all the company of heaven we praise your name and join their unending hymn:

All (can be sung): Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

Minister: Holy are you, and blessed is your Son Jesus Christ. Your Spirit anointed him to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, and to announce that the time had come when you would save your people. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, and ate with sinners.

By the baptism of his suffering, death, and resurrection you gave birth to your church, delivered us from slavery to sin and death, and made with us a new covenant by water and the spirit. When the Lord Jesus ascended, he promised to be with us always, in the power of your Word and Holy Spirit.

On the night in which he gave himself up for us, he took bread, gave thanks to you, broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said: "Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me."

When the supper was over, he took the cup, gave thanks to you, gave it to his disciples, and said: "Drink from this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."

And so, in remembrance of these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ, we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving as a holy and living sacrifice, in union with Christ’s offering for us, as we proclaim the mystery of faith.

People: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

Minister: Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here, and on these gifts of bread and wine. Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ, that we may be for the world the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood. By your Spirit makes us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world, until Christ comes in final victory and we feast at his heavenly banquet.

Through your Son Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit in your holy church, all honor and glory is yours, almighty Father now and forever.

All: Amen.

Invitation to the Table

Minister: All who would come to Christ are invited to come to His table.

Closing Eucharistic Prayer:

All: Lord Jesus Christ, grace is evident at this table… and we gather to partake of that grace. Salvation is celebrated at this table… and we gather to celebrate that salvation. As we leave this table may we be messengers this week of your grace and salvation. You are the Lord forevermore. Amen.

Scattering to Minister

Hymn: In Christ There is No East or West


Minister: Go in peace, serve the Lord!

People: Thanks be to God!

-Dennis Bratcher, Copyright ©: 2018, Dennis Bratcher - All Rights Reserved
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