Exactly 499 years ago Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. So, we’re one year away from a significant anniversary of this milestone.
Synod 2016, in response to an overture, instructed us to observe this 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation.
The word choice is important. Somewhere between receiving the overture and the action on the floor of synod, the title of the intended observance was changed from Celebration to Commemoration. That’s significant.
I believe the Holy Spirit was moving in and through the deliberation of our church’s assembly when this switch of words was made. The Protestant Reformation was both necessary and unfortunate. Necessary, because the Roman Catholic church, at that time in history, needed some biblical correctives. Unfortunate, because things had become so bad that a split was unavoidable.
So, as we prepare to commemorate the 500th anniversary next year, I suggest that this year and every year we remember with a bit of sadness that while the Reformation was necessary, it was also unfortunate and that we respond with gratitude, knowing that God’s truth endures, through his Word and in his Church, whether we call ourselves Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox.
In the words of Martin Luther’s hymn: “That Word above all earthly powers—no thanks to them—abideth; the Spirit and the gifts are ours through him who with us sideth. Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still; his kingdom is forever.” (A Mighty Fortress Is Our God).