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Wretched rags

Martin Luther was right to rail against those wretched rags called indulgences. The 31st of October will mark another anniversary of his famous hammer-fist against them on the church door in Wittenberg. And 502 years later, his argument still stands. Indulgences are foolish in their conception, false in their logic, fatal in their hope, and quite blasphemous in their attempt to foist a bribe into the hand of a holy God.

Of course they’re mentioned in the Bible, right at the start, in the story of Cain and Abel. Abel came to God, on God’s terms, bringing a sacrifice from his flock, and was welcomed and accepted. But Cain came to God, on Cain’s terms, bringing something that was not asked for, only to find that God would not accept the scripted indulgence that he had expected God to sign. Cain mutinied, and stormed off in pride to execute an act of revenge against this God who was so OCD about the ways of worship.

Luther ruefully records that during his time as a monk, he had tried the way of Cain, albeit in the form of offering to God religious rituals prescribed by the church of the day. But then with a heart subdued and humbled, he came to God on God’s terms, by means of a Lamb, trusted in as a substitute. And he found himself welcomed and pardoned and justified. And a fire lit in his heart. And the Reformation was begun.

DM 29th October 2019

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