On Reformation Day, we celebrate the beauty of the pure, unadulterated Gospel of Christ crucified for us
sinners and we recognize the men who valued this truth more than their own lives. They knew that a little leaven spoils the whole lump, so false teachings were not something that could tolerated in the church (Matthew 16 & 1 Corinthians 5). They knew what this truth cost. This truth we call the gospel was purchased by the very blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. Without that, we are lost. This was the truth that made Luther say “Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me.” even as stared down his own death.
As much as we celebrate Reformation Day, if we’re honest, it’s also a bittersweet day. The Christian church was and is rent asunder by schisms and distressed by heresies. It is a painful thing to break a church, but the church’s one foundation must always be Jesus Christ her Lord, so we Lutherans were finally forced to separate ourselves from any church body that found a foundation in anything other than Christ. People died so that we could have this freedom.
I’m so glad we get to celebrate All Saints Day right after. On All Saints Day we see the reason this truth matters so much. We catch a glimpse of the everlasting peace that the saints at rest now have, and we are given the promise of the same. All Saints Day is where we are so incredibly bold as to proclaim that Christ has died and risen for us, that He has sought us, bought us, and by water and word, claimed us as His own. Because He did all this for us, our salvation is secure. On All Saints Day we can say with certainty that those who have fallen asleep in faith before us are in heaven because of what Christ has done for them, and that we will see them again in glory because of that same sacrifice. This is the power of the truth of the gospel. This is worth fighting for.
This truth isn’t just told to you though, it’s fed to you. We are given mystic sweet communion with those
whose rest is won. We partake in the Communion of the Saints, Jesus’ own Body and Blood that tie heaven and earth together. Upon the altar are the very same body and blood of Jesus that were given for you on the cross. This meal gives forgiveness, life, and salvation. This altar unites heaven and earth for you, and it is yours, given freely, every week.
When you kneel at this altar to receive Holy Communion, you receive all of it, and you proclaim to heaven
and earth the one and only foundation you cling to is Jesus Christ. That’s what it means to commune at a Lutheran altar. Here, you are given salvation itself in communion, and you tell heaven and earth that you believe what Luther fought for, what the reformers confessed in the Book of Concord. Luther would rather die than give up this truth. He would not fall back to other altars. He said “Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me.” We can’t kneel at the altars of popes or good works. The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord. We cannot tell God we cling to anything else. Here we kneel, we can do no other. God help us.
On Reformation Day we see the cost. On All Saints Day we see the reason. On the altar we receive it all.