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  • Writer's pictureMark Bocanegra

What does Luther have to do with Oyumino?

When I gently reminded the prayer group that today was the 500th Reformation Anniversary, I was given a surprised look, "Oh! That's right. In Japan, unfortunately, we don't feel a connection to the Protestant Reformation. Do you feel a strong connection because you grew up Catholic?" Although the Presbyterian Church of Japan is one of very few denominations that are committed to the Reformed Faith, I was deeply disappointed by the relative silence in regards to Reformation 500. It gave me deeper zeal to share the sacrifices, the commitments, and the heart of the Reformation with the Japanese people. I shared the following on Reformation Sunday right before our Call to Worship: What does a German monk nailing a piece of paper on a door 500 years ago have to do with Oyumino Christ Church in the 21st century? Although we acknowledge it's importance, we forget it's connection to us. Why are we able to read the Scriptures in Japanese? It is because of this German monk and the Reformation. Back then, for centuries, Christians were worshiping in a language that they could not read or understand--Latin. However, the Reformers, while being persecuted by the Church and running away for their lives, were committed to translate the Scriptures in the common tongue for the advancement of the Kingdom. The Reformers were committed to the sufficiency, efficacy, and clarity of the Scriptures. They truly believed that even laymen could understand the Word. In fact, Luther himself, while he was on the run, translated the New Testament into German from Greek--this was the first time the Scriptures were in the German tongue. And I've heard that this translation is still used by some today. Without the Reformation, we would not be reading our Bibles in our native tongue. Why are we able to call ourselves a "grace-based, Gospel-centered" church? It is because of this German monk and the Reformation. For centuries, millions of Christians did not have any assurance of their salvation. The Roman Church believed that our salvation needed to be 'maintained' by our works and the strength of our faith. However, the Reformers shouted, at the top of their lungs, that salvation was by grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone, as they burned at the stake, as they were cut by swords, as they were persecuted by their neighbors, exiled from their countries, and hunted down by the authorities. Why were we able to plant a church in Oyumino? It is because of this German monk and the Reformers. In order to proclaim this wonderful Gospel, the Reformers went to the ends of the world to advance the Kingdom of God at the risk of their lives. French pastors, knowing that if they were caught they would be burned alive, willingly returned to their hostile home country to plant Reformed Churches at the risk of their lives and families. Genevan pastors willingly shared the Gospel to plague victims at the risk of catching it themselves. John Knox, though he was exiled from his own country, willingly returned to Scotland to plant the first Presbyterian Church. As the religious persecution started to heat up, the Scottish Presbyterians and the Reformed took the dangerous trip to America. In the early 1700s, the American Presbyterian Church was born in the midst of uncertainty, strife, and conflict. For 300 years, the American Presbyterian Church, in tears, in pain, and in suffering, had to overcome various false teachings, trials, and conflicts. However, during all of that struggle, the Presbyterian Church sent thousands of missionaries, all over the world. The reason why Korea has a large Christian presence is because of the Presbyterian mission. And among the many missionaries, one of them was Pastor Dan Iverson. We, the Presbyterian Church of Japan and Oyumino Christ Church, are children of the Reformation. Today, we come to worship in deep thanks to our God who has protected his Church, his Bride for 2000 years. We enter into his presence by the living Word and called to worship that can be heard in our native tongue.

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