This Month's Newsletter

The monthly Sing For Joy newsletter contains a letter from the program's host, Pastor Bruce Benson, along with a listing of music selections for each program and the corresponding scripture readings. If you'd like to receive a complimentary subscription, fill out our online request form for either the print newsletter or the electronic newsletter.

October 2017 Newsletter (Year A)
Celebrating the Reformation, by Pastor Bruce Benson

This is the Sing For Joy newsletter for October, 2017. I know what that means, and you probably do too: I am expected to mention Martin Luther, Reformation, and maybe even Wittenberg, Germany. I will do such mentioning gladly. Yes, it was 500 years ago this month that Martin Luther put ink to paper and set in motion a continent-shaking event we have come to call The Reformation. Like many other people, I have read multiple volumes of Luther’s Works, visited Wittenberg and other Luther sites in Germany, watched at least three movies and read as many books about his life, and of course I have sung his hymns. As a result, I share the general consensus of Church and society in America. Namely, that the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation deserves attention. 

Does it also deserve celebration?

There are reasons to say no, but perhaps better reasons to say yes. Celebrating the 16th Century Reformation here in the 21st feels more honest than it did decades ago. There was a time when observing Reformation Day or Reformation Sunday at the end of October felt a bit like an in-group party with people on all sides sounding a little like the Pharisee in the temple, “I thank thee, Lord, that I am not like other people:” (pick the one you don’t like) “Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Jew.” But in our time, mutual understanding has gone a long way toward helping us all find ways to celebrate Luther’s Reformation. Catholics and Protestants, who for so long kept a cautious and mistrustful distance from each other, now sing together the hymns of Luther, and use his insights about the Christian gospel to proclaim it themselves. Luther, who often lumped the papacy with the antichrist, might be as fond of Pope Francis as so many Protestants are today. And the Vatican, which once excommunicated Luther, is these days willing to agree with his formulations of the Christian faith. 

The Reformation can be celebrated now, not so much as a breakaway movement, but as what its name says, a reformation. Part of the insight of the 16th Century Reformation was that those who call themselves God’s people are still people; they don’t always get everything right; they are as much in need of repentance, forgiveness and reform as anyone else. Of course, if that alone were the Reformation message, we could agree that it is true as far as it goes, but there would be little incentive to sing. Recognizing our own culpability for what we call sins of omission and sins of commission is honest, but it doesn’t put much of a song on our lips or a dance in our step. It is the rest of the Reformation insight that does that: God’s grace is in fact grace, it is love by another name. God loves ... just because. True lovers never say, “You go first, maybe I’ll follow,” they just step heart-first into love. Just so, said Luther and other reformers, God starts the dance of grace simply by loving. And that is why we sing. That is why this 500th anniversary just might be worth celebrating. Sing for joy.

Peace be with you,




Pastor Bruce Benson

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October Playlists and Programs

Playlists are ready now, and each show will become available to stream on the Friday before the week begins.

October 1, 2017: Time After Pentecost — Lectionary 26 (Year A)

October 8, 2017: Time After Pentecost — Lectionary 27 (Year A)

October 15, 2017: Time After Pentecost — Lectionary 28 (Year A)

October 22, 2017: Time After Pentecost — Lectionary 29 (Year A)

October 29, 2017: Time After Pentecost — Lectionary 30 (Year A)

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Lanterns and candle on altar of Boe Memorial Chapel at St. Olaf College
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Rose and Lester Balke (died in 1989)

Mrs. (John) Ferguson

Rev. R. Timothy Hepner

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Ivy and Jack Wostrel


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