500 years ago, an Augustinian monk and priest named Martin Luther ignited the Reformation with his 95 theses. There have been, of course, a lot of events worldwide and locally to ponder this moment. It really is difficult to exaggerate the importance of that moment in history. I read a piece somewhere last week that quibbled over whether or not he had actually nailed these to the door at his Wittenberg church. He could have sung them out the window for all I care. He stood in front of a moving tank, that is what he did.
He was not the first reformer, of course. Jan Huss of Prague met a fiery end for his efforts a century before Luther. And certainly the mendicant orders, such as the one started by a man named Francis, were aimed at reforming the Church. But Luther succeeded in ways these others had not. There are lots of reasons for that and a simple blog post cannot do such a discussion justice.
I traveled to Wittenberg more than ten years ago. I ambled through the house run by Martin’s wife, Katharine von Bora; through Melanchton’s garden; and into the Castle Church where I lit a candle. This was and is the epicenter of the Reformation and perhaps modernity, if by modernity we mean the assertion of one’s conscience over the demands of the State or ecclesiastical authority. With his emphasis upon justification by faith over a works theology; with his attack on corrupt popes and councils and in their place “the cradle of Christ,” the Bible, and his emphasis upon the priesthood of believers, I could not help but be moved by being in that town where the drama of the Reformation unfolded.
There are, of course, unfortunate and terrible things about Luther. His anti-Jewish rhetoric, his siding with the State against the peasants and his reluctance to forge a way with Zwingli were grave errors. We should be aware of these shortcomings and as with any person of such a magnitude, be careful of idolizing him.
If you read the Bible in your own language and not Latin; if you believe you should be able to receive both the cup and the bread of the eucharist; if you believe in the priesthood of believers and by all means, if you rely on the grace of God in Christ and not a works theology, then you should celebrate this moment in history. And if you are not religious but believe in the sanctity of one’s conscience and the critical engagement of one’s intellect with things religious then this moment also offers you something to celebrate. The fact is, Luther would not have countenanced Baptists and I am a Baptist clergyperson whose movement emerged on the radical edge of the Reformation in the 17th century. Still, he is the great Reformer and I walk my spiritual journey along his mile markers:
Sola scriptura By scripture alone
Sola fide By faith alone
Sola gratia By grace alone
Sola Christus Through Christ alone
Soli Deo gloria. To God alone the Glory.
If you are so inclined, here is a link to the 95 theses of Dr Martin Luther. And if you are so inclined, worship in our Protestant assembly held in Jefferson Middle School on Sundays at 10 a.m. We practice a radical table fellowship that invites everyone to the Table of our Lord, denying no one access to his grace. Such worship is a protest and a counter-sign to a culture in love with death, bereft of any reasonable notion of truth.
~See you Sunday