Saturday, October 31, 2009

Reformation Day Blessing

Today is October 31st, the day we traditionally celebrate as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. According to tradition, it is the day Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses (or propositions for which he invited discussion & debate) to the church door at Wittenberg.

This evening it will be my honor to portray Martin Luther in program at Unity Presbyterian Church (ARP) in Piedmont, SC. I thought some of you might be interested to read my presentation.

Hello, my name is Martin Luther. You may remember me because on the eve of All Saints Day – you call it Halloween – in 1517, I nailed a notice to the church door at Wittenberg.

Now, in those days before Facebook, the church door was like a public bulletin board, so posting a message was no big deal. I was making a public challenge to debate some of the Church’s practices that I thought were not according to the Bible.

Two years later, I got my debate – with a very famous and learned theologian by the name of von Eck. At that time, von Eck made an accusation that I was a new John Hus

Well, that hit me hard, because I knew the name of Hus. I had been taught that he was a heretic burned at the stake in 1415. I did not want to be associated with a heretic.

So, I went to the university library and read all I could find about this John Hus. He lived in Bohemia – you call it the Czech Republic. If you look on a map of Europe, Germany is here, Poland is here, and where my thumbs cross is Bohemia.

As a young priest, John Hus encountered the teachings of John Wycliffe, from England. Wycliffe had translated the Scriptures into his native tongue, and he also showed how the Church had drifted from the Bible’s teachings.

Hus taught some pretty radical ideas. He said that the Church was not made up of pope and priests, but of all God’s elect people; he also taught that Christ, not the pope was the only true head of the Church. He also spoke out against indulgences – paying money to the Church to have your sins forgiven.

Hus preached that one receives forgiveness from God through true repentance, not by paying money. That was the same thing I said in the paper that I nailed to the church door. I really started to like this guy.

It was no wonder that the Church officials were really out to get John Hus. At that time, Bohemia had a good king: Wenceslaus. (Good King Wenceslaus . . . that’s really kind of catchy.) The king tried to protect Hus, but that only lasted so long.

Hus was put on trial and told to renounce his beliefs. He said that he would change only if someone could prove his teachings were contrary to the Bible. On July 6, 1415, Hus’s enemies executed him by burning him at the stake.

Before he died, he made a prophecy. He said, “In a hundred years, God will raise up a man whose calls for reform can not be suppressed." It was 102 years later that I nailed my paper to the church door.

In speaking of the Reformation, someone has said, “Wycliffe struck the spark, Hus lit the torch, and Luther illumined the land.” I prefer to say that God’s Word illumined the land.

As we celebrate the Reformation, we honor those who -- like Hus -- gave their lives for Christ and His Gospel. But I think there is also room to rejoice and make merry as we bask in the light of the truth.

In that spirit, I invite you to click on the link below and watch

The Reformation Polka

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