October 31, 2017, marks the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, when Rev. Dr. Martin Luther first posted his 95 Theses at Wittenberg, Germany. This year will be filled with celebration within the Lutheran family of Christianity. This will be a year of celebration for Shepherd of the Hills as well.
The three primary core values for Lutherans – even though the phrase “core values” isn’t nearly as old as the values themselves – are “Grace Alone,” “Faith Alone,” and “Scripture Alone.” All three fit neatly under the banner, “Christ Alone.” These will do nicely as the foundation for our celebration this year.
When we say, “Grace Alone,” we’re saying that we are saved entirely by God’s grace. Grace is … (I’ll give all my confirmation kids a moment to say it first) … God’s undeserved love for us because of Jesus Christ. Our entire relationship with God comes from Him, as He sends Jesus into our world and the Holy Spirit into our hearts. Grace is all God.
When we say, “Faith Alone,” we’re saying that there is nothing we can do, decide, commit, submit, or earn before God that counts in any way toward our eternal life. Even our faith itself isn’t ours; it’s God’s gift to us (Ephesians 2:8-9). Faith is that Christ-inspired trust the Spirit plants in us to take hold of the grace He has offered.
When we say, “Scripture Alone,” we’re saying that the only source for what we believe, what we know about God, and how His plan for our lives works is His Word. The Bible is the inspired Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21) which reveals who He is and leads us into a deeper relationship with Him in Christ Jesus.
Right away, in January 2017, we will start the celebration of God’s Grace Alone as we explore how He delivers that saving grace to us in His gift of Baptism. Our January worship series, “The River of Life,” will show us how Grace Alone, Faith Alone and Scripture Alone all come together to impact our daily lives as children of God. Jesus changes us from the inside out, and empowers us by grace to live lives worthy of the calling He has extended to us.
Throughout the year we will come together to continuously fulfill our mission as a Church Family: God reaches us with the love that reaches others. We are setting some goals for our life together in Jesus that will not only deepen our faith, but also encourages us to share it. These goals will be presented at our Annual Meeting on January 29.
As we get closer to Reformation Day, we will be joining with the other Lutheran churches in our Appleton circuit for a special Reformation Worship Celebration on Sunday, August 20, at the Timber Rattlers’ stadium. When the actual 500th Reformation Day comes in October, we will celebrate big time right here at SHLC!
Looming on the horizon for us is our building design concept. We’re working on the feasibility study that will give us an idea of how big and how much we are capable of. While we will be bringing in a consultant to help us look at the numbers, we already have the Consultant who leads us where He wants us to go. His grace will take us there. Our faith will move us. And the Word will guide us.
So get ready, SHLC! This is a celebration 500 years in the making!