What an amazing opportunity to be present for the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation--Martin Luther's nailing of the ninety-five theses on the door of the Wittenberg (Germany) church. There are very few 'ancient' events of which we know the exact date of their occurrence.
As is the struggle at almost every funeral, it is important to remember what the Lord has done through these 'lowly means' rather than what the person himself has 'accomplished'. That word 'accomplish' is connected to the words 'fulfill' and 'complete'. How could we ever do either of those actions by ourselves? In scripture they belong much more frequently to the Lord.
One of the traditional readings for Reformation Sunday is Revelation 14:6-7. At Luther's funeral, his pastor, Johannes Bugenhagen, referred to those verses in connection with Luther, saying that, without a doubt, he is that angel evangelizing that eternal gospel.
As when essentially any angel appears, the focus of the person to whom the angel appears is focusing on the angel and not on the message. The angel usually has to say something like, 'Do not be afraid.' Could you imagine if, at every Sunday morning service, the congregation would have to go through all of that because their messenger was an angel in similar appearance to those in the scriptures?
I came upon a quote by Pascal this week. 'Every religion that does not affirm that God is hidden is not true. And every religion which does not give a reason for it is not instructive (Pensees, p. 191).' I thought that was helpful--and a good opportunity to focus on the good news.
The book of Revelation is like drinking out of a fire hose. I could easily focus on the four groups of people who are receiving the message of the angel. (I will mention that I thought it interesting that they are described as 'sitting' in most manuscripts--usually a position of authority; the four groups are: 'nation, tribe, language, and people'.) I could also focus on the four things listed that God is said to have created--I think it is critical to mention that the writer includes the sea and the springs of water (see Gen 2:6--although the ESV translates it as a 'mist' going up from the land and watering the whole face of the ground, a footnote does give the option of a 'spring').
That this angel gives out an eternal gospel--that adjective appears in connection with that VERY special word at no other place in the scriptures. With an eternal gospel comes eternal comfort, eternal assurance, eternal gifts. An eternal gospel will never be silenced. Never.
With that in mind, 500 years is quite a short time.