Thesis 82 – 95 Reflections

82. Namely, “Why does the pope not empty purgatory for the sake of the holiest love and the direst need of souls as a matter of the highest justice, given that he redeems countless souls for filthy lucre to build the Basilica [of St. Peter] as a completely trivial matter?

THERE’S A FIRE IN THE APARTMENT! Simon was in a panic. Thankfully, Simon lived alone and had no pets, so all Simon had to do was get safely out of the building. This was easier said than done, however, since the flames had engulfed most of the building. The exterior windows were blocked off by the flames, so Simon had to leave his apartment and go into the main hallway. “Help!” he cried out, I’m stuck up here!” The sheer noise of the flames was as intense as the heat, as they worked to devour the space around Simon. “Over here!” came a voice from down the hall. “I’m a firefighter! I can help you!” Simon crawled as fast as he could toward the sound of the voice. The smoke was getting thick. Simon could hear the firefighter coming towards him, as well. Everything was going to be alright! Simon started to relax when he saw the firefighter. “Do you know of a way out of here?” Simon asked.

“Sure do!” replied the firefighter, who then asked, “Do you have $100?”

“$100?!? Are you crazy?!?” Simon snapped back.

The firefighter replied, “Well, you want to get out of here, don’t you? Surely you don’t want to die here in the agony of these flames!”

Now, in this situation, what do you think of the firefighter? Obviously, the firefighter should save Simon without demanding money before doing so! Anyone can see that the firefighter, who has the power to release Simon from the captivity of the burning apartment building, ought to do so for the sake of saving Simon’s life as it would be the firefighter’s duty as a firefighter. So, too, were such questions being raised about Pope Leo X in 1517 Germany. If the Pope has the authority to present such an amazing mercy on behalf of God to be able to free souls from the agony of purgatory, why not, for the sake of love itself, do such a thing? Selling indulgences, then, amounts to extortion. After all, it is the duty of the Pope to be the chief declaimer of God’s grace through Christ Jesus. Anything else works to secure treasures in this world, where moth and rust consume and thieves break in and steal (Matthew 6:19). Our treasure is in Heaven, because that’s where Christ is. Our souls are in dire need to meet Jesus face-to-face, and our God has arranged for that satisfaction out of the holiest of love.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Bryan Simmons

Thesis 81 – 95 Reflections

81. This unbridled preaching makes it difficult even for learned men to defend the reverence due the pope from slander or from the truly sharp questions of the laity:

I never want to be a public relations representative, especially for a celebrity or major corporation. I can’t imagine the amount of stress involved! Your task is to always present that person or corporation in the best possible light, no matter what the situation and no matter if what they did was actually awful or not. It’s your job to spin it so the public still thinks they’re great. Ugh. It’s hard enough selling to people that I have it together in the slightest fashion. How could I possibly do it for someone else?

But, what I certainly never want to be is the White House Press Secretary! These poor, brave women and men are the GMO’s of the public relations world, uniquely engineered to spin the craziest of stories, always trying to paint the administration, particularly the President, in the best light. The President (any president, not just the current one) could go live on the air and say that Continue reading “Thesis 81 – 95 Reflections”

Thesis 80 – 95 Reflections

80. The bishops, parish priests, and theologians who allow such sermons free course among the people will have to answer for this.

Many who know me know that one of my favorite Christmas movies is A Christmas Story. The movie follows the adventures narrated by “adult Ralphie” as a fond memory of Ralphie, his family, and his friends around the time of that magical Christmas when Santa gave him an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle! During the course of this walk down memory lane, Ralphie recalls many other memories that same time of the year. One of them had to do with the town bully, Scut Farkus and his toady, Grover Dill. Every day, on the way from or to school, Scut and Grover would terrorize Ralphie or one of his friends. It made the school journey perilous, but the boys also normalized the experience, accepting that Scut and Grover had the power over them, however tyrannical it was. Until one day, a day that was not going Ralphie’s way at all, Scut Farkus hits him right in the face with a snowball and begins to taunt him, with Grover joining in the taunting. Fear led to anger. Anger led to being fed up. And, being fed up led to action! Ralphie charged the overbearing tyrant and Continue reading “Thesis 80 – 95 Reflections”

Thesis 79 – 95 Reflections

79. To say that the cross emblazoned with the papal coat-of-arms and erected [in the church where indulgences are preached], is of equal worth to the cross of Christ is blasphemy.

Symbols are very important things. When you see a rainbow, it’s a symbol of God’s promise never to destroy the Earth by flood like in the days of Noah. The heart shape is a symbol for love. When you see a logo of a business, you think about that business; what it sells, what it stands for, its history, its scandals, everything. Symbols help us to communicate not just direction, but meaning.

The cross has been a very popular symbol within our culture. And not just within churches, either. Many celebrities wear crosses as part of their look throughout their careers. Sometimes the crosses are sideways or upside down. It doesn’t really matter what these celebrities do, either. Some wear crosses while singing or rapping about murder or other clear violations of the 10 Commandments. Some wear crosses during comedy routines that specifically make fun of Christianity. Some act in what many would say is a “Christian manner.” Not all have ulterior motives. Some aren’t Continue reading “Thesis 79 – 95 Reflections”

Thesis 78 – 95 Reflections

78. On the contrary, we say that even the present pope, or any pope whatsoever, possesses greater graces – namely, the gospel, “deeds of power, gifts of healing…” – as in 1 Cor. 12[:28].

Do you remember the story of Jacob? Jacob had betrayed his brother, Esau, by tricking him into giving away his birthright of a double share of the inheritance and tricking his father into giving Easu’s blessing to Jacob, instead. Jacob fled for his life after that to the land of Haran and came across his uncle, Laban, who takes him in. While there, Jacob falls in love with Laban’s daughter, Rachel. The story goes that Laban strikes a deal with Jacob, “Work with me for seven years, and then you can marry Rachel.” Jacob does this, but Laban tricks him into marrying his eldest daughter, Leah, instead! He offers to let Jacob work for him another seven years for Rachel, which Jacob does. All of this causes hurt feelings and radically altered lives. Modern day views of women’s rights aside, this is still an odd story of Laban’s manipulation of Jacob so that he could get a solid fourteen years of work from him!

Pope Leo X had greater graces at his disposal. That’s been made obvious throughout these 95 Theses, and yet, the Pope seemed reluctant to give them. It was, sadly, much more profitable to Continue reading “Thesis 78 – 95 Reflections”

Thesis 77 – 95 Reflections

77. That it is said that even Saint Peter, if he were now pope, could not grant greater graces is blasphemy against Saint Peter and the pope.

My wife has an excellent curried butternut squash soup recipe. The balance of flavors is superb and the level of spice is just enough to satisfy the palette without overpowering it. First, the squash is cubed, the onion is diced, and the garlic is minced. Then, the onion and garlic are sautéed until delicious, filling the air with that heavenly aroma. After that, the squash is softened in boiling broth and everything is pureed with the spices added until absolutely perfect. It’s exotic, it’s taste is delightfully complicated, and it’s delicious!

One of the churches I was a pastor of held a soup cook-off one night. We couldn’t think of any better soup to enter than the curried butternut squash soup! My wife worked meticulously to provide the best curried butternut squash soup possible. I mean, this was the best best soup there was! It was entered among all kinds of different soups: chicken noodle, chili, minestrone, taco soup, beef stew, etc. As the night went on, we could see people enjoying the different soups, but it just seemed like they were particularly enjoying the curried butternut squash soup. When it came time to announce the winner, we were eagerly anticipating the results. Continue reading “Thesis 77 – 95 Reflections”

Thesis 76 – 95 Reflections

76. On the contrary, we have said that papal indulgences cannot take away the very least of venial sins, as far as guilt is concerned.

There’s no family treat quite like the Chuck-E-Cheese’s. We have a variation of it in our town. For those who don’t know, Chuck-E-Cheese’s is a pizza place and arcade for families with young children. When you’re eating pizza, there’s an animatronic band that plays, with lights and sounds galore all over the place. For a kid, it’s a magical paradise. For an adult, it’s a campy nightmare. But, you love your kids, so you take them there and, since they’re having so much fun, you have a little, too. After some pizza and music, the kids are ready to venture out into the arcade. Now, the thing about these types of arcades is that there are many games dedicated to the winning of tickets; currency that you spend for “fabulous” prizes. My kids love this part. It’s like a mini casino with games of skill and others of pure luck. They can’t wait to spend all the tickets they’ve won! They’ll spend their tickets on cheap candy and cheap plastic toys, excited to get home and enjoy the fruits of their labor! The toys last all of 20 mins (I’m being generous in my estimate) and, those amazing procurements of major awards disappoint once again, breaking with even gentle use! “What a bunch of junk!” the kids will complain. Until, it’s time to return to Chuck-E-Cheese’s and Continue reading “Thesis 76 – 95 Reflections”

Thesis 75 – 95 Reflections

75. To imagine that papal indulgences are so great that they could absolve a person even for doing the impossible by violating the mother of God is insanity.

Well, it’s not every day that theoretically raping the Virgin Mary is brought up in conversation, because it truly is awful to even mention. In his Explanations, Luther says that he was hearing among the people in his town that this claim was being made in order to show the value of indulgences! Later, he would go on to accuse none other than Johann Tetzel, the premier declaimer of indulgences near Wittenberg, of personally making such a claim. Basically, think of the most vile, the most disgusting, the most despicable thing you could possibly do; indulgences cover that! They were marketed as the most amazing grace available – all you would ever need.

Such a claim really perverts the justice inherent in salvation. If you can do the worst thing you can possibly imagine, purchase a sheet of paper that makes it ok, and be covered for future such awful things, what really is the value of God’s love? Where is the justice in any of that? Let’s say I punched you flat in the face and broke your jaw. Then, right in front of you, I purchased one of those wonderful sheets of God’s mercy so that I Continue reading “Thesis 75 – 95 Reflections”

Thesis 74 – 95 Reflections

74. much more so does [the pope] intend to thunder against those who, under the pretext of indulgences, contrive to harm holy love and the truth.

Another statement that is true in theory, but unfortunately did not apply to Pope Leo X, who excommunicated Luther for speaking against the abuses of indulgences rather than defending the Gospel against those abuses. What good are we if we don’t uphold holy love and the truth?

In 1517 Germany, the Church functioned as a hospital to treat sinners. When you were particularly encumbered by sin, you went to the church, confessed, carried out the penance prescribed by the priest, and were cured by grace, until you again became too sick with sin that you had to go back for treatment. Evangelism was the job of the rulers, and they evangelized by telling you what to believe in their kingdom. That’s all there was to it. All you really knew in 1517 Germany was that God’s love is holy, you violated it, and now you need to pay for it. But, was the Church really fulfilling its duty in upholding holy love and the truth through the way they became sin doctors for people? Is that really holy love, or is it merely a cold, transactional system of reward and punishment?

We in the Church today can fall into the temptation of being a sin hospital. We Continue reading “Thesis 74 – 95 Reflections”

Thesis 73 – 95 Reflections

73. Just as the pope justly thunders against those who, in whatever way they can, contrive to harm the sale of indulgences,

Luther sets up the next thesis with this one. It’s interesting to read these because Luther would eventually call the Pope the anti-Christ and deny the authority of the papacy altogether! But, for now, Luther, under the authority of the Pope, says this about that authority in his Explanations, “I say again what I have said before (whatever may be the personal intention of the pope) that one must give in humbly to the authority of the keys, be kindly disposed to it and not struggle rashly against it. The keys are the power of God which, whether it is rightly or wrongly used, should be respected as any other work of God – even more so.” What a difference excommunication and a threat on Luther’s life make! When the Church acts so hostile to a scholar who is trying to hold actions accountable to reason, that authority certainly seems to be misplaced.

Unfortunately, we’re still amazingly good at destroying one another for challenging what is assumed to be the right and only way. We’re particularly good at it when it comes to traditions within the church. We start to love what the church itself has been in our lives and work to preserve it, attacking those who would Continue reading “Thesis 73 – 95 Reflections”