On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church as an invitation to debate the sale of indulgences for forgiveness of sins. That event sparked a reform movement that eventually led to separate denominations. While there is pain in this disunity which the Protestant Reformation caused, Luther established the idea that the Church is always in need of reform. Today we pray for church unity and for a church that is always open to reform and the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.
(Adapted from an ELCA Resource)
On Sunday October 29th we will celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation (the above statement is one I use every Reformation Sunday in the bulletin to remind us of our roots.) Martin Luther remains an important historical figure for Protestants today. We can trace our roots to Luther in the United Church of Christ, even though John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli became the central Protestant Reformers for our predecessor denominations. For the Baptists among us at Colchester Federated Church, the Anabaptists began their reform movement in the 16th Century as well so we can view them as contemporaries of Martin Luther. Church Historians debate these lines of influence and which modern denomination came from which movement within the Protestant Reformation. Boring or fascinating stuff depending on your interests!
The stained glass above is a picture that I took when visiting Frankenmuth, Michigan with my family. At St. Lorenz Lutheran Church, we found this remarkable image of Martin Luther nailing the 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church. It’s such an important event for Lutherans that an entire window in this gorgeous church was devoted to Martin Luther!
For our part, the Protestant Reformation can remind us of where we came from and what still matters in our church today. We wouldn’t be where we are if it weren’t for Martin Luther. Here’s one example–the fact that we have Bibles in our pews in English is thanks to Luther’s ideas taking root in Europe. The fact that the Bible has been translated into thousands of languages by now is thanks to Luther and his firm belief that the Bible should be accessible for everyone.
Luther spent years translating the Bible from the original Hebrew and Greek into German. In the 1440s Johannes Gutenberg (and his new-fangled technological wonder the Printing Press) enabled mass distribution of the Bible. But the Gutenberg Bible was still in Latin and only accessible to priests, monks, and other highly educated people who could actually read it. Combine Luther’s German translation and the Gutenberg Printing Press? All of a sudden, people in Germany could get their hands on a Bible written in their own native language! They could read our sacred stories for themselves for the very first time! They could begin to understand that access to God didn’t need to be mediated by those in power in the Church. This was revolutionary, and only the beginning of the story.
(This Week’s Thoughts 10.26.17)