In Lutheran churches all across the country today, folks will be singing “A Mighty Fortress is our God,” wearing red, and talking about a German monk named Martin Luther who may or may not have nailed 95 theological statements to a church door over 500 years ago.

It can feel a bit tribalistic and backwards to remember this event each year, but what happened at the start of the Protestant Reformation half a century ago still matters to us today. Here’s three reasons why.

  1. The church can be wrong. Luther’s main criticism with the church was that the institution valued power and privilege over preaching and teaching about God’s love for all people. Although much has changed, this criticism is still valid. Too often, the church forgets to stand in solidarity with those who are most vulnerable: the poor, the outsider, and victims of injustice. We need to hear, over and over again, God’s call to self-reflection and renewal.
  2. We are redeemed. The central truth proclaimed by the reformation is one that we still need to hear today. There is no distinction. Every single one of us falls short of God’s perfect vision for the world. We can’t redeem ourselves. But God makes us righteous through the free gift of grace and mercy through Jesus Christ. And when we recognize this gift, it frees us from the pride and shame that consume us as we try to redeem ourselves.
  3. God’s love can transform us. The love that we come to know through Christ can draw us out of our selfishness and into partnership with God. Because we are loved, we can begin to love one another and work for justice and peace in the world. We go about this work not because we think it will make us good, but because we recognize God’s goodness and want to share it with others.

Happy Reformation Day!