Sunday, October 31, 2010

Reformation Day - The Church Militant Continues Her 2,000 Year Journey of Reformation and Exile

In 1949, a communist uprising and takeover within the Republic of China resulted in the Chinese Civil War. The war ended with the freedom of mainland China being handed over to the communist dictatorship that remains to this day. The original government, still called the Republic of China was forced into exile to the island off the coast of their country.

The usurping government took the name "People's Republic of China" even though the humanitarian record of the regime proved that it is not a government of the "People" and it is only superficially a "Republic". The power, size, and propaganda of the communist government has been such that the name "China" now refers to the communist regime and the Republic of China in exile has been largely forgotten. They still call themselves "The Republic of China" 50+ years later, but everyone knows them as "Taiwan".

If you say "China", people think of the communists. If you try to call Taiwan the "Republic of China" to the uninitiated, great confusion abounds. Yet the people of Taiwan remain true to their roots and look forward to the day when freedom may return to their homeland.

On this day, hundreds of years ago, a reform movement from within the western church began to restore the freedom of the Gospel to millions of Christians. The defense of the gospel met with only limited success and the reformers were expelled by imposters who stole the moniker "Catholic" (meaning "Universal") for themselves. These reformers in exile have come to be known as "Lutherans" a name as unfortunate as "Taiwanese" but a name that must exist to differentiate the tyrannical majority from the freedom-loving minority in exile.

Are the Taiwanese the Republic of China? Yes! And they are fully entitled to the name. Are the communists also called and well known as the Republic of China? Yes! ......but it is not a Republic in any real sense. Are they Chinese? Yes! ....but unfortunately they are also tyrannical communists.

By the same token the Lutheran church is catholic ("universal"). We are fully entitled to the name but it confuses the uninitiated. It is just easier to use the name "Lutheran" to tell us from those who are not Lutheran. Is the Roman Catholic church also called and well known as Catholic? Yes! ....but it is no longer "universal" in any real sense because it casts out Christians who seek to return her to the freedom of the Gospel. Are they Christian? Yes! ... but unfortunately they are also papists and legalistic enthusiasts.

Are there faithful Christians in Rome? Yes! ...but they labor for Christ under duress in spite of their church in the same way that communist government of China rules over her victimized, silenced, oppressed, and deceived citizens who are in desperate need of freedom and relief.

And so the Lutheran quest to reform the visible church here on earth and return her to the teaching of Scripture continues as she labors as an exiled, marginalized, and mocked minority. Lutheranism is in good company because--unlike the Chinese War that only occurred recently--the true church of Jesus Christ that clings to pure doctrine has always been rejected, hated, and rather small when she is compared to the false religions, persecuters, sects, heretics, and other enemies around and among her. The true church of Jesus always shares in Christ's rejection [Matt 21:42, John 16:33, Matt 10:5-42].

The Reformation of the middle ages was started by Martin Luther, but he is but one in a long line of prophetic voices of reform that have corrected error and legalism since the very dawn of the church 2,000 years ago. In fact, this lineage traces back through Christ's wrestling with the religious majority of His day, through John the Baptist, and through centuries of Old Testament prophets and judges who watched over the spiritual Isreal that was always kept by God within the visible body of the Israelites. Like those who come before us, we bold and faithful few continue to call ourselves and our neighbors back to Christ to hear the Word of the Lord and live in unity under the truth that was once for all delivered to the saints.

Let us always remain orthodox, catholic, and Christian as we hold steadfast to God's Word within the exile of the Lutheran Church... our island and last line of defense against legalistic tyranny and false doctrine.

The Church's One Foundation
Lyrics by Samuel J. Stone
Music by Charles Wesley
(LSB #644)

The church's one foundation
is Jesus Christ her Lord;
she is his new creation
by water and the Word.
From heaven he came and sought her
to be his holy bride;
with his own blood he bought her,
and for her life he died.

Elect from every nation,
yet one o'er all the earth;
her charter of salvation,
one Lord, one faith, one birth;
one holy name she blesses,
partakes one holy food,
and to one hope she presses,
with every grace endued.

Though with a scornful wonder
we see her sore oppressed,
by schisms rent asunder,
by heresies distressed,
yet saints their watch are keeping;
their cry goes up, "How long?"
And soon the night of weeping
shall be the morn of song.

Mid toil and tribulation,
and tumult of her war,
she waits the consummation
of peace forevermore;
till, with the vision glorious,
her longing eyes are blest,
and the great church victorious
shall be the church at rest.

Yet she on earth hath union
with God the Three in One,
and mystic sweet communion
with those whose rest is won.
O happy ones and holy!
Lord, give us grace that we
like them, the meek and lowly,
on high may dwell with thee.

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