Suggestions for Reformation Sunday

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This coming Sunday, October 31st, is celebrated as "Reformation Sunday" by many protestant churches. This is a day when we take time to acknowledge and give gratitude to God for the sacrifices made and doctrine defended during the 15th and 16th centuries in Europe. If you've never publicly acknowledged the Reformation during a worship service, let me make two suggestions. The first one is simple: use hymns from Martin Luther. His famous hymn A Mighty Fortress Is Our God has been called the battle hymn of the reformation and includes several of the biblical principles that Luther fought to return to the church. Another popular hymn text from Martin Luther is From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee. I set an alternate English translation into a more traditional sounding tune in the song By Grace Alone. Indelible Grace also has a contemporary tune for this hymn.

The second suggestion is to use the service liturgy to rehearse the biblical principles that the reformers taught and defended. I can't remember where I got this idea and some of the liturgy text, but it may have been from my friend Ron Man. If you're a worship leader or planner you will greatly benefit from subscribing to his Worship Notes newsletter. Here is our service order for this Sunday, complete with lyrics so you can see how the song choices reinforce and celebrate the principles we will read together.

Order of Worship

Song - #92 A Mighty Fortress Is Our God (Martin Luther) © Public Domain
A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood
of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe
doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great,
and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
the Man of God's own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name,
from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly pow'rs,
no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go,
this mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God's truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Introduction to Service - Worship Leader
* Many protestants celebrate Reformation Day on October 31st or Reformation Sunday (today) to commemorate the day on which Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to a church door at Wittenberg, Germany in 1517
* We owe a great debt to Luther and the other reformers. They stood for the purity of the gospel against church and state armed only with the Word of God.
* We are going to remember and celebrate the five great doctrines (solas) today by responding to them with scripture and song as a way to commemorate these heroes of the faith and the freedom that we have to believe these things today. It is fitting to honor these men for we are really honoring God who was their rock, their fortress and their might.
* The reformers were not only concerned with doctrine but with reforming worship as well. During the reformation the role of Christ as our sole mediator, services in the language of the people, a simplified and more understandable order of service, the prominent place of expositional preaching, and the participation of the people in worship especially through congregational singing were all recovered. These are some of the same values that Redeemer holds dear in worship.
* I pray that today's service will be a blessing to you as we give glory to God for what He has done and how He has preserved His truth throughout all generations.

Reading - Call to Worship - Hebrews 13:7
Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.

Song - #358 For All the Saints, (William Walsham How) © Public Domain
For all the saints who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well-fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

From earth's wide bounds, from ocean's farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
Singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Reading - Sola Scriptura, The Scriptures Alone
Sola Scriptura - The Scriptures Alone
The Holy Scriptures have once and for all revealed to us the nature and purposes of God, the work of Christ, the call of the gospel, and the way of salvation.

Congregation (1 Peter 1:23-25):
"You have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. For, 'ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS, AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF GRASS. THE GRASS WITHERS, AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF, BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER.'"

Song - Precious Bible, What a Treasure! (John Newton) © Public Domain
Precious Bible! what a treasure
Does the Word of God afford!
All I want for life or pleasure,
Food and tonic, shield and sword;
Let the world account me poor-
Having this I need no more.

When my faith is faint and sickly
Or when Satan wounds my mind-
Tonics to revive me quickly,
Healing medicines I find;
To the promises I flee,
Each affords a remedy.

In the hour of dark temptation
Satan cannot make me yield
For the word of consolation
Is to me a mighty shield;
While the Scripture truths are sure
From his malice I’m secure.

Reading - Solus Christus, Through Christ Alone
Solus Christus - Through Christ Alone
Salvation has been accomplished and is applied solely on the basis of the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins.

Congregation: (John 14:6; Acts 4:12)
"Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.'"
"There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."

Song - In Christ Alone (Stuart Townend & Keith Getty) © 2001 Thankyou Music
In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song.
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone - who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe.
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross, as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For every sin on Him was laid.
Here in the death of Christ I live.

Reading - Sola Gratia, By Grace Alone
Sola Gratia - By Grace Alone
As those who were dead in our trespasses and sins, we could do nothing to earn or deserve God’s mercy. Salvation is a free gift of God’s grace - His unmerited favor freely bestowed through Jesus Christ and His atoning death.

Congregation: (Romans 3:23-24)
"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus"

Song - By Grace Alone (Martin Luther / David L. Ward) © 2002
Out of the depths I cry to You,
Lord, hear my voice of pleading;
Bend down Your gracious ear, I pray,
Your humble servant heeding.
If You remember each misdeed,
And of each thought and word take heed,
Who can remain before You?
Only by grace, by grace alone.

Your pardon is a gift of love,
Your grace alone must save us,
Our works will not remove our guilt,
The strictest life would fail us.
Let none in deeds or merits boast,
But let us own the Holy Ghost
For He alone can change us:
Only by grace, by grace alone.

Reading - Sola Fide, By Faith Alone
Sola Fide - By Faith Alone
We respond to God’s gracious initiative in salvation through personal trust in the Redeemer. Not by our works, but rather by faith in Christ’s provision on our behalf, do we enter into the blessings of eternal life.

Congregation: (Galatians 2:16)
"Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified."

Song - Not What My Hands Have Done (Horatius Bonar & Brian Moss) © 2006 Parson John Publishing
Not what my hands have done
Can save this guilty soul;
Not what my toiling flesh has borne
Can make my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do
Can give me peace with God;
Not all my prayers and sighs and tears
Can bear my awful load,
Can bear my awful load.

Your voice alone, O Lord,
Can speak to me of grace;
Your power alone, O Son of God,
Can all my sin erase.
No other work but Yours,
No other blood will do;
No strength but that which is divine
Can bear me safely through,
Can bear me safely through.

Reading - Soli Deo Gloria, Glory to God Alone
Soli Deo Gloria - Glory to God Alone
God has created and redeemed us in order to display the glory of His majesty and His mercy, the wonders of His greatness and His grace.

Congregation: (Ephesians 3:20-21)
"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen."

Song - To God Be the Glory (Fanny Crosby) © Public Domain
To God be the glory, great things He has done;
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
Who yielded His life an atonement for sin,
And opened the life gate that all may go in.

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the earth hear His voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,
And give Him the glory, great things He has done.

Greeting & Announcements

Worship Through Giving

Song - Speak, O Lord (Keith Getty & Stuart Townend) © 2005 Thankyou Music
Speak, O Lord, as we come to You
To receive the food of your holy word.
Take Your truth, plant it deep in us;
Shape and fashion us in Your likeness,
That the light of Christ might be seen today
In our acts of love and our deeds of faith.
Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us
All Your purposes, for Your glory.

Teach us, Lord, full obedience,
Holy reverence, true humility.
Test our thoughts and our attitudes
In the radiance of Your purity.
Cause our faith to rise, cause our eyes to see
Your majestic love and authority.
Words of power that can never fail;
Let their truth prevail over unbelief.

Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds;
Help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us.
Truths unchanged from the dawn of time,
That will echo down through eternity.
And by grace we'll stand on Your promises;
And by faith we'll walk as You walk with us.
Speak, O Lord, 'til your church is built
And the earth is filled with Your glory.

The Ministry of the Word

Time of Reflection

Song - Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder (John Newton & Laura Taylor) © 2001 Laura Taylor Music
Let us love and sing and wonder,
Let us praise the Savior’s name!
He has hushed the Law’s loud thunder,
He has quenched mount Sinai’s flame:
He has washed us with His blood,
He has washed us with His blood,
He has washed us with His blood,
He has brought us nigh to God.

Let us love the Lord Who bought us,
Pitied us when enemies,
Called us by His grace, and taught us,
Gave us ears, and gave us eyes:
He has washed us with His blood,
He has washed us with His blood,
He has washed us with His blood,
He presents our souls to God.

Let us sing, though fierce temptation
Threatens hard to bear us down!
For the Lord, our strong salvation,
Holds in view the conqu’ror’s crown:
He Who washed us with His blood,
He Who washed us with His blood,
He Who washed us with His blood,
Soon will bring us home to God.

Let us wonder, grace and justice
Join, and point to mercy’s store;
When through grace in Christ our trust is,
Justice smiles, and asks no more:
He Who washed us with His blood,
He Who washed us with His blood,
He Who washed us with His blood,
Has secured our way to God.

Let us praise, and join the chorus
Of the saints enthroned on high;
Here they trusted Him before us,
Now their praises fill the sky:
"You have washed us with Your blood,
You have washed us with Your blood,
You have washed us with Your blood,
You are worthy, Lamb of God!"


Reading - Benediction - Hebrews 12:1-2
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.


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[...] Suggestions for Reformation Sunday – David Ward gives some suggestions for worship service for this Sunday. [...]
» Friday Favorites | October 29, 2010 on October 29th, 2010

Thanks for the insight, hope to be able to sing it at my church in 2011
» Ken in Jersey on October 23rd, 2011

Great post!!
Thank you very much, we are suing some of your ideas on the "solas" for our structure of service tomorrow. What a blessing of an idea. Now just praying that the snow does not keep us from celebration.
To God be the glory.
» Jason on October 29th, 2011

I have been asked to do a solo for Reformation Sunday. Your posting provides a gold mine of ideas. Thank you so much!
» Maribeth R. Siskind on October 17th, 2012
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