Peace Lutheran Church Natoma, Kansas
2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation when Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg. Following this, there will of course then be many more 500th anniversaries for the Small and Large Catechism, the Augsburg Confession and its Apology, and many other important writings and documents that resulted from the Reformation.
Even today, still four years out, people are making preparations for this important celebration in the history of Lutheranism: Concordia Publishing House is working on publishing a variety of resources that will greatly enhance the study of Luther and of the Reformation; there will undoubtedly be celebrations in Germany at the historic sites such as Wittenberg, Augsburg, Smalcald and Worms; and right now there is a short one woman opera being produced called Katie Luther that details the life of Luther’s wife: Katie. (I have yet to discover if there will be a semi-local showing of this production).
Some of these things may be of interest to you, and others you may shrug off as being geared only toward pastors and historians. And yet, once we get past 2017, and once all of the Luther trinkets have been published and sold, and once whatever media attention is gone, what are we left with?
Because the Reformation is not just a major event in the history of civilization, ala the discovery of the new world by Christopher Columbus. The Reformation actually has a great deal more to it; it is not best celebrated with the special production of medals or ancient texts, nor is it best remembered every October 31st with the singing of A Mighty Fortress.
The Reformation gave us a great many gifts, far too many of which we have wasted away. Luther might very well cry today if he saw what has become of the church body that now bears his name, never mind what he would say if he saw the churches that descended from John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli.
The true gift of the Reformation is the gift of the Scriptures. We are well aware that due to the cost of printing and the shortsighted hierarchy of the church, very few people prior to 1517 had a copy of the Scriptures in their own home from which they could read and study. Today, very few homes in the world are without at least one Bible; every hotel room I have stayed in has a copy of the Bible; the Bible is in thousands of languages in every country in the world.
Yet how many people actually read it on a regular basis? How many have studied the Scriptures? How many can tell you how the Scriptures describes man’s sinful condition and describe God’s promises and abundant blessings?
Probably not many more than read and studied them in 1517.
That is the real crime of society today. Luther and the other reformers risked their lives in order to get the Bible into the hands of the people in a language that they could understand; and yet, as we stand here nearly 500 years later, those Bibles sit in corners covered with dust, with nary a break in the spine of the book.
If you want to celebrate the Reformation, not just in 2017, but in 2013; and not just on October 31st, but every day; take the Scriptures and open them up and read, mark, learn and inwardly digest what they have to say. For that is how Luther would tell you to celebrate; not by purchasing special commemoratives, but by taking that Bible off the shelf and reading about the promises and blessings that God has in store for you through His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.
God Bless! Pastor Schmidt