The year 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation sparked by Martin Luther’s nailing of the 95 Theses on the Castle Church Door at Wittenberg University (Germany), October 31, 1517. During this medieval period in Europe, people worked hard to make a living. Death rates were high among children and adults. The average life-span for this time period was about 40 years. The greatest worries for parents was not being able to provide food, clothing, and shelter for the family. During this time all of Europe was still rebounding from the impact of the Black Plague that wiped out nearly a third of the continents’ population. You can imagine their questions: “Where is God in all this pain?”
It is important for us to understand the context in which Martin Luther grew up in. Throughout 2017 we will be offering a number of learning opportunities that will help us to more fully appreciate our history as Lutherans. The Confirmation class (8th grade) has already been introduced to the Reformation theme via its course study, videos, and activities. They will continue this venture throughout the remainder of the year with special emphasis being given to Luther’s Small Catechism and the impact it had upon family life. A wonderful array of resources have been made available to us through both the Northern IL Synod and the ELCA. I encourage committees and teams to come up with activities/gatherings to commemorate this 500th anniversary.
On Monday, April 24 at 7:00 p.m., the video “Luther and the Reformation” will be shown to help us better understand our roots and kinship with the Roman Catholic Church. The video is presented by one of television’s popular travel hosts, Rick Steves. You will want to get this marked on your calendar. What we do inwardly as a congregation equips us to share outwardly with others the love of God in Christ Jesus through the witnesses of old as Jesus’ story is told.
I am grateful for your partnership in ministry as we look forward to 2017. As disciples of Christ we are called to nurture one another in faith and in love. This is something that God does through regular attendance at worship. If you know of someone who has not been in worship for some time, please extend a warm welcome to them. Worship is an essential faith practice for every Christian. Luther wrote: “Worshipping God is twofold, outward and inward—that is, to acknowledge God’s benefits, and to be thankful to God.” For those who are homebound…. you are remembered in prayer and our oneness in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit unites us. Please inform the church office if you are homebound and would like to receive Holy Communion. Either myself or communion servers to the sick/homebound will be happy to bring the sacrament to you.
ABOUT THE LUTHERANS
Martin Luther: Monk to Reformer
We live in an era when fame is highly desired. Whether it's getting hits on social media, getting invited to desirable gatherings, or making it big in Hollywood or Nashville, people want to be known, to be memorable - often for the wrong reasons. It's noteworthy then, that in 2017 the Lutheran church, and the world, marks a big anniversary involving one of our own (our founder, actually). Martin Luther didn't intend to become famous, and yet he changed the world, helping to usher in the modern era.
This little sheet doesn't have room to detail Luther's life and accomplishments, and you will probably be hearing a lot about them from many sources, so this will just provide a brief overview.
Martin Luther was born in 1483 in what is now central Germany but then was a separate principality called Saxony. His parents tried to give him a good education and hoped he would become a lawyer. Instead, when he was twenty-one he became a Catholic monk. He wanted to earn God's love but was tormented by the sense that he could never be good enough. He punished himself mercilessly until finally a wise mentor sent him to study and teach Bible at the then new University of Wittenberg.
Not long after he arrived there, he became incensed by the church saying, in effect, that if people bought a certain document - an indulgence - it would provide God's forgiveness for their (or a loved one's) sins. Being a university professor, he wrote a list of ninety-five sentences to debate about the topic. That list, the Ninety-Five Theses, stirred up a hornet's nest in the church and began the Reformation. He made them public on October 31, 1517 - coming up on five hundred years ago.
For challenging the church and refusing to back down, Luther was called before the Holy Roman emperor, Charles V, at a meeting in the imperial city of Worms. Asked to take back what he had written, he refused and was declared an outlaw. Anyone could have captured him and killed him or turned him in to authorities, in which case his death was likely. Fortunately, his own prince protected him, hiding him out in a castle where he began translating the Bible into German. In the process, he helped create the standard German language.
Luther wrote many influential books, most of which are still valued today. He created the Small Catechism to guide ordinary people in learning about God. He wrote hymns such as ''A mighty fortress is our God." He was a passionate, sometimes crudely mannered man, and in later life he wrote terrible, cruel things about the Jewish people, statements for which the Lutheran church has apologized.
Yet Luther was a remarkable man, helping to create the modern notion of what it means to be an individual, not just an atom in a sea of molecules, and, of course, reviving and reforming the church. He is a man worth celebrating!
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