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DID YOU KNOW …

… this year, 2017, marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation? On October 3, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his list of 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg, Germany, castle church. Here at Zion, there are many activities planned throughout the year to commemorate this important event in history. So now you know we are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
… Martin Luther wrote hymnbooks? He once said “Next after theology I give music the highest place and the greatest honor.” His first hymnbook came out in 1524. In it were 23 hymns which he wrote and may have been part composer on some. The hymn we love, “A Mighty Fortress”, came out in a later hymnbook. Referred to as the “great battle hymn of the Reformation”, it is based on the 46 Psalm.
 
… Martin’s father Hans was miner and later owned half a dozen foundries. His parents hoped Martin would become a jurist, be prosperous and support them in their old age. When Martin entered the monetary his father was enraged. Eventually his parents accepted his decision and on the day that Martin gave his first Mass his father came riding in accompanied by 20 horseman and gave a great donation to the monastery. Martin could barely get through his first Mass, he was terrified, but he was able to restrain himself and left the altar limp and shuttering.
 
… Martin’s decision to become a Monk in some ways parallels St Paul’s conversion. On a  hot July day in the year 1505 he was traveling alone when the sky became overcast. A storm came up suddenly and a bolt of lightning came down and nearly struck him. He was so afraid he cried out “St Anne help me! I will become a monk”. Is it ironic that the man who called on a saint would later repudiate the cult of saints, would later renounce monasticism and then shatter the structure of Catholicism in the Middle Ages?
 
… there is a Website www.here-i-stand.com about Martin Luther, the Reformation and it’s results. It features posters you can download, 3D objects from Luther’s life you can print and other information. Also #HereIstand. Other websites you may want to visit: for Luther!95 Treasures-95 People go to www.Lutherstadt-Wittenberg.de; for Luther and the Germans go to www.luther.de and for The Luther Effect go to www.vistberlin.de. All are in English and have a wealth of info on Luther and the Reformation.
 
… there are many books about Martin Luther. A new one entitled “Resilient Reformer: The Life and Thought of Martin Luther” by Timothy Lull and Derek Nelson is published by Fortress Press (2015). Mr Lull was president of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and Mr. Nelson is Associate Professor of Religion at Wabash College. This is an outstanding biography of a person who they say was by 1545 “one of the five most famous people alive, three of the others being kings (Charles V of Spain and the Holy Roman Empire, Francis 1 of France, Henry VIII of England, and Pope Paul III. This was quite an achievement for a man whose grandfather had been a peasant and whose father had started out in life as a copper miner.” Some of the material for these blurbs come from “Here I Stand, A Life of Martin Luther” by Roland H. Bainton. This book was first published over 50 years ago and contains Renaissance drawings, woodcuts and engravings from Luther’s era.
 
… that in Medieval times you could buy your way into Heaven? The Roman Catholic Church issued Indulgences that granted full or partial remission of sins. The first ones were used as a means to enlist men to participate in the Crusades. Help to liberate the Holy Lands from the Turks and you could avoid Purgatory. Since not everyone could join the armies the Church began to sell Indulgences. The more Indulgences you bought the longer you stayed out of Purgatory. You could even buy them to save your dead relatives from a life in Hell. In Germany a Dominican Friar, Johann Tetzel, is famous for pushing Indulgences for the dead with his saying “When a penny in the coffer rings, A soul from Purgatory springs.” Indulgences were the bingo of the 16th Century. They financed the building of the gothic cathedrals, churches and monasteries. The rebuilding of St Peters in Rome was financed this way. Martin Luther finally put an end to this system.
 
that Martin Luther suffered from bouts of depression for most of his life. He said these mood swings began at a young age and became more serious as he prepared to enter the monastery. In the year 1527 he had mood swings more severe than usual. He said “for more than a week I was close to the gates of death and hell. I trembled in all my members. Christ was wholly lost. I was shaken by desperation and blasphemy of God.” Luther gave 3 rules to avoid depression. One, faith in Christ, two, get angry, three, the love of a woman. He also recommended music because the Devil hates gaiety. When despondent he sought out the scriptures. Faith and miracles that he found in both the Testaments uplifted his spirits.
 
that in 1511 Martin Luther was transferred to Wittenberg. Here at the University of Wittenberg he obtained a Doctor of Theology degree and assumed the Chair of the Bible. He also preached sermons in the town church. It was during his early years here that he formed his theology. He studied and lectured on the Psalms, on St Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, and the Epistle to the Galatians. For him the Old Testament was a Christian book foreshadowing the life and death of Christ. He saw that what God first worked in Christ he must also work in us. In his studies of the Epistles of Paul he said “Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that the just shall live by his faith. Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith…This passage of Paul became to me a gate to heaven…” This justification by grace through faith for Christ’s sake is for us Lutherans the heart of the Gospel.
 
… that Luther’s 95 Theses were 95 propositions for debate forged in anger against the Pope and the power of Rome. On the eve of All Saints Day, October 31, 1571, he nailed these arguments, written in Latin, onto the wooden door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg. There were 3 main points: An objection to the payment of Indulgences, a denial of the power of the pope over Purgatory and a consideration of the welfare of the sinner. First the poor German peasants were purchasing these Indulgences and the money was going to Rome to build a basilica as a home for the bones of St. Peter while their own churches needed money. Second Luther felt God and only God had the power to forgive sins. The pope could not reduce the penalties of Purgatory no matter how many Indulgences he sold. And thirdly Luther said “Christians should be taught that he who gives to the poor is better than he who receives a pardon…did Christ say let him that has a cloak sell it and buy an Indulgence? Love covers a multitude of sins and is better than all the pardons of Jerusalem and Rome.” These Theses were not meant to be read by the people but were intended for scholars to debate. However others had them translated into German and they soon became the talk of Germany.
 
…that Martin Luther was excommunicated? Pope Leo X issued a Bull on January 3, 1521 excommunicating Martin Luther from the Catholic Church for failure to recant his views which in the eye of the church amounted to heresy. Even after this action the Pope was not done with him yet. He was summoned to appear at a meeting in Worms, Germany. Here at the Diet of Worms Martin Luther stood before his accusers and said “Here I Stand I can do no other.” Luther was charged with attacking the seven sacraments of the Church and was to be regarded as a “convicted heretic…no one is to harbor him. His followers also are condemned. His books are to be eradicated from the memory of man.” His followers, referred to as “Lutherans”, rejected this decree and the Reformation had begun.
 
that Frederick the Wise, ruler of Saxony, became a follower of Luther , and after Luther’s appearance at the Diet of Worms arranged for Martin’s exile in the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach.   Here his only contacts were with the warden and 2 serving boys. To disguise himself he dressed as a knight and grew a beard. Loneliness brought on depression and to battle that he immersed himself in work. He wrote close to a dozen books of the Revelation and translated the New Testament into German. Meanwhile the Reformation continued. Priests, monks and nuns were marrying. The Mass was being said in German, the people could actually receive the bread and wine. People realized the Reformation meant something and this pleased Luther.
 
… that Luther regarded motherhood very highly. To him Genesis1:28 “Be fruitful and multiply” was in his words “more than a command, namely, a divine ordinance which is not our prerogative to hinder or ignore.” Luther frequently celebrated the blessings of children and the wonderful calling of motherhood. Luther had strong beliefs in marriage saying “but the greatest good in married life, that which makes all suffering and labor worthwhile, is that God grants offspring and commands that they be brought up to worship and serve him. In all the world this is the noblest and most precious work, because to God there can be nothing dearer than the salvation of souls. Most certainly father and mother are apostles, bishops and priests to their children, for it is they who make them familiar with the gospel. In short there is no greater or nobler authority on earth than that of parents over their children.”

 

that in the Youth Sunday sermon Kallia told us that “Through his studies Martin discovered God’s love exists prior to any of our good works and Jesus Christ died to forgive our sins, and that act alone assures us that we are welcomed into God’s Kingdom.”

Tait went on to tell us “Martin Luther found Paul’s teachings in Romans to be tremendously freeing. He read in Romans 23 verse 8 “For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” And in Romans 5 verse 1 “Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Justification is the declaring of a person to be just or righteous. It is through our faith that we receive God’s grace.” So there you have it, the core principles of the Lutheran faith: Justification by grace through faith for Christ’s sake and the law and Gospel

 

… that both Lutherans and Roman Catholics believed God’s grace was essential for salvation but they disagreed on the way grace works. You have heard before “Justification by grace through faith for Christ’s sake” is for Lutherans the heart of the gospel. Upon reading Paul’s letters to the Romans and the Galatians Luther insisted faith is the key. In the sermon on Mothers Day Ally told us “In his study of the scriptures Martin Luther discovered a God who loves us so deeply and dearly that he sent His only Son to die for our sins. He discovered above all else that our God and Savior will never abandon us no matter how often we fall short of being who He asks us to be. Luther found in the Bible scripture telling us that glory is not about what we do or fail to do, glory is about what God has done for us through Jesus Christ. The way that we are made right in God’s sight is by our faith. The Apostle Paul taught that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen”. There is no distinction since we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  Like Martin Luther we should find this tremendously freeing. Through our faith we receive God’s grace as a gift. Let us live each day hearing with our hearts, seeing with our souls; knowing that we are guided by a hand we cannot hold. Let us always trust in a way we cannot see. Let us live in faith.”

 

… that In order to meet Confirmation requirements one of the things confirmands have to study was Martin Luther’s Small Catechism. Back on Mother’s Day you may recall in the sermon Nicholas told us “Martin Luther wrote many books but the Small Catechism was his favorite. The Lutheran Church has made the Small Catechism a part of Confirmation instruction for more than 400 years. Luther wrote this teaching tool in the late 1520’s, after he had visited some churches in the area of Wittenberg. After meeting with leaders of the Reformation, he saw that the common people were in desperate need of a basic guide to the Christian faith. Luther put the Ten Commandments first, followed by the Apostles Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. This order reflected Luther’s belief that through the law, the Commandments, we learn to dismiss any possibility of saving ourselves. Then we are ready to receive the mercy of Christ as contained in the Apostles Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. The Sacraments reinforce this by talking about how Christ comes in the midst of our daily lives and nurtures our faith.”

 

… that Martin Luther described Christians as being saints and sinners at the same time? Lutherans believe that we as saints are forgiven sinners. Some people believe those who are saints obey God’s commands and those who disobey are sinners. To these people it is “black and white”. We see sin as a powerful force in this world yet we try as best as we can to resist temptation. Through God’s grace we are forgiven. Luther once wrote “Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world”.

 

… that Martin Luther married? He wrote “the laws of men cannot annul the commands of God; and since God has ordained marriage, the union of a priest and his wife is a true and indissoluble union.” While he thought priests should be able to marry he had no intention of doing that himself because he was not only a priest but a monk. However winds of change were blowing. Monks and nuns were leaving their cloisters. Some nuns in a nearby cloister came to Luther for advice and he arranged for their escape, a capital offense in that day. He felt responsible to find them homes, husbands or some kind of work. Eventually all married except one, Katherine von Bora. Luther arranged a marriage for her but it fell through. She was by now 26 and he was 42. Luther decided it was time to take a wife. On June 13, 1525 Martin and Katie married. Pictured on the cover of “Christ In Our Home” for April, May, June 2017 is a statue of Katharina von Bora. On the cover of that booklet for this quarter is a set of doors. The caption says “By 1540 when Katharine presented Martin with this new entryway to their home as a birthday gift the couple had 10 children, including four who had been orphaned…” When they married they were a poor couple. Martin had left the order so he was not entitled to any of its money. He had only his books which provided a meager income. The Prince, friend and supporter of Luther, turned over the cloister to Luther and Katie. It became their home. He also doubled his salary and frequently sent them food, clothing and wine. Katie kept house and raised a garden and an orchard. She also had a fish pond and took care of hens, ducks, pigs and cows. We will read more about Luther and Katie in future stories.

 

… that the East Berks Mission District and Saucony Craft Brewery in Kutztown have teamed up to produce Katie Luther Beer? Martin Luther had a fondness for a certain drink and his wife Katie brewed a beer that her husband loved. Saucony Brewery has made a Hefeweizen very similar to her recipe and proceeds from the sale will go to the United Lutheran Seminary scholarship fund. Martin Luther is quoted as saying “Whoever drinks beer he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long does not sin; whoever does not sin enters Heaven; thus let us drink beer!” He liked beer but avoided drunkenness. He is also quoted as saying “We ought to give thanks to God for providing us with food and drink and then besides liberating us from the papacy and feeding us with food and drink. If you are tired and downhearted take a drink; but this does not mean being a pig and doing nothing but gorging and swilling.” The beer came in 750 mi bottles and sold for $20. On the bottle was a nice picture of Katie Luther and a special inscription “500 Year Anniversary of the Reformation”. Unfortunately the bottles have sold out but at Saucony Brewery you can enjoy the beer on tap.

 

… that Martin and Katie had 6 children of their own? On May 26, 1526 Martin wrote to a friend “There is about to be born a child of a monk and a nun”. When the baby, named Hans Luther was born and wrapped in swaddling clothes Luther said “Kick little fellow. That is what the pope did to me, but I got loose”. Later when a daughter was born Luther wrote to a prospective godmother “Dear lady, God has produced from me and my wife Katie a little heathen. We hope you are willing to become her spiritual mother and help make her a Christian.” To Luther children were subject to the parents and especially the father. Disrespect for parents was to him a breach of the Ten Commandments. Martin enjoyed his home, his wife and children and he considered himself to be blessed.

 

… that Luther saw Christ as the Sole Revealer? He wrote “Where men do not know Bethlehem’s babe they rave and rage and strive. The angels proclaimed peace on earth, and so shall it be to those who know and receive this Babe. For what is it like where Jesus Christ is not? What is the world if not a perfect hell with nothing but lying, cheating, gluttony, guzzling, lechery, brawling and murder. That is the very Devil himself…But the angels show in their song that those who know and accept the Child Jesus not only give honor to God but treat their fellow men as if they were gods, with peaceable demeanor, glad to help and counsel any man…for the Christian way is quiet and friendly in peace and brotherly love where each gladly does the best he can for another.” Merry Christmas in July!

 

… that some of Luther’s greatest contributions were in the liturgy and music of the church. Luther restored the emphasis of the early church on the Lord’s Supper, making it an act of thanksgiving to God and fellowship through Christ with God and each other. In 1526 German language replaced the Latin Mass. The whole tone of the service was altered in two respects. There was more of the scriptures and more instruction. Both the Gospel and Epistle were prominent and the sermon occupied a larger place in the service. The pulpit was higher than the altar. Now the church was not only a house of prayer and praise but also a classroom. Luther preached his sermons from the Gospels. According to some sources Luther preached 2,300 sermons. The highest count was in  1528 when he preached 195 sermons over 145 days. He was always teaching, in the classroom or the pulpit and he was always preaching, whether in the pulpit or the classroom. We will read about his contributions to music in a future story. 
 
… that Martin Luther spent 6 months at Veste (castle) Coburg high above the hills looking down on the Bavarian city of Coburg, home of the popular Hummel figurines. On Good Friday, April 15, 1530, Martin Luther along with a group of knights, nobles, soldiers and others rode into Coburg on their way to Ausburg. Luther was still under an imperial travel ban and had to take refuge in the Veste. He stayed in this place which he referred to as “an extremely charming location that is well suited for studying” for nearly 6 months. It is said that he wrote 120 letters to friends in Ausburg and to his wife Katie. While here he translated parts of the Bible into German, including the Coburg Psalter (Psalm 1-25). He also preached in the city’s main church. It was here where John Frederick, Elector of Saxony, visited Luther and gave him a ring with his seal, the famous Luther Rose. 

You can visit the “Luther Room” in the Veste and see the desk he worked at as well as a life size portrait of Luther painted by Lucas Cranach the Younger signed and dated 1575. Besides Augsburg, Coburg is one of the most important “Luther towns” in Germany and the city is celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation with a series of exhibitions titled “Knights, Peasants, Lutherans.” Although Bavaria is a strong Catholic state the celebration of the Reformation is focused on the history of Luther’s impact, the Reformation and the Protestant traditions in this region of Germany.

Excerpts taken from “The Hausvater Project”

 
Compiled by Bob Jones