Martin Luther Comes to Church

A Service for Reformation Sunday

The following service for Reformation Sunday focuses on the writings and hymns of Martin Luther. Have someone dress up as Martin Luther and lead part of the worship service, even memorizing portions of it. Depending on your church’s context you may choose to have Luther also deliver the message. To avoid confused worshipers it may be prudent to include a note in the bulletin or screen that the service will be led by a guest, Martin Luther. You may also choose to introduce your guest before he speaks so that those gathered understand that he was one of the Reformers and lived in the 1500s.

God Gathers His People

Ringing of the Church Bells

Organ Prelude
“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” Luther, arr. Harmon

Processional: Choir, Congregation, and Brass
“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” Luther, LUYH 776, GtG 275, SSS 651
[“Martin Luther,” in a black robe and hat, brings in the Bible and lights a candle. Then he reads the following paragraph before continuing to lead the congregation in worship:]

“From the beginning of my Reformation I have asked God to send me neither dreams, nor visions, nor angels, but to give me the right understanding of his Word, the Holy Scriptures; for as long as I have God’s Word, I know that I am walking in his way and that I shall not fall into any error or delusion.”
—Martin Luther, Commentary on Genesis, Vol. II, Zondervan Publishing House © 1958. Used by permission of Zondervan. zondervan.com

Opening Prayer
Lord, keep us steadfast in your word;
curb those who by deceit or sword
would wrest the kingdom from your Son
and bring to naught all he has done.

Lord Jesus Christ, your power make known,
for you are Lord of lords alone;
defend your holy church,
that we may sing your praise eternally.

O Comforter of priceless worth,
send peace and unity on earth;
support us in our final strife and lead us out of death to life. Amen.
—Words: Martin Luther, 1542; tr. Catherine Wilkworth, 1863, P.D. “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word”

God’s Greeting

Mutual Greeting

Choral Anthem with Congregation
“Let All the People Praise Thee” Watt, arr. Sleeth

Sola Gratia: Grace Alone

Call to Confession
Good deeds, paying penance for my sins, living a life of solitude, saying my prayers over and over—all these and more I did to try to make myself right with God. But it was to no avail. One day, as I was searching the Scriptures, this verse gave me the peace I so desperately sought: “For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Romans 1:17).

Congregational Response
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
—Ephesians 2:8–9

Prayer of Confession
From depths of woe I cry to Thee,
Lord, hear me, I implore Thee.
Bend down Thy gracious ear to me,
My prayer let come before Thee.
If Thou rememberest each misdeed,
If each should have its rightful meed,
Who may abide Thy presence?

Thy love and grace alone avail
To blot out my transgression;
The best and holiest deeds must fail
To break sin’s dread oppression.
Before Thee none can boasting stand,
But all must fear
Thy strict demand
And live alone by mercy.

Therefore my hope is in the Lord
And not in mine own merit;
It rests upon His faithful Word
To them of contrite spirit
That He is merciful and just;
This is my comfort and my trust.
His help I wait with patience.
—Martin Luther, “From Depths of Woes I Cry to Thee,” based on Psalm 130

Suggestion: Play the alternative tune MIT FREUDEN ZART LUYH 572, GtG 645 with solo organ during prayer.

Sola Christo: Christ Alone

Words of Assurance
“[Even though] your sins be strong, . . . let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.”
“Let Your Sins Be Strong: A Letter from Luther to Melanchthon,” Martin Luther, 1521

Blessing and Dismissal of Children (or Children’s Message)

Sola Scriptura: The Word Alone

Song of Preparation
“Ancient Words” DeShazo, LUYH 762

Prayer for Illumination
The following prayer could be read by a child.

God,
The Bible is a very special book.
It is so big and so old.
What do these old words mean for our lives today?
Please send your Spirit
so that we can understand your Word. Amen.

Scripture Reading

Message

Prayer

Sola Fide: Faith Alone

We Respond in Faith
“Speak, O Lord” Getty and Townend, LUYH 755, SSS 561

Morning Prayer

Offering
“For All the Saints” How, LUYH 254
Suggestion: Use the Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) version for band. Sing stanzas 1, 2, 3, 5, and the coda. Then have the organ play the introduction to “For All the Saints” PsH 505 and have the congregation join in singing stanzas 6 and 7.

Soli Deo Gloria: To the Glory of God

Blessing and Doxology
“To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”
—Jude 24–25

Closing Song
“How Firm a Foundation” Isaiah 43:1–5, LUYH 427, GtG 463, SSS 291