This year marks the 500th anniversary since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the castle church door in Wittenburg, starting what we now refer to as the Reformation. While this event happened 500 years ago, Martin Luther’s works and the Reformation are still relevant for our lives today.
Luther grew up in a culture that is significantly different from ours today. Just to put things in perspective, Luther was eight years old when Christopher Columbus set sail for America. Luther lived in a time when everyone was part of one church – the Roman Catholic Church and the church played a significant role in politics and political leadership (there was no separation of church and state). The 1500’s were also a time when the Plague killed 1/3 of all people, most lived in poverty, and life expectancy was 30-40 years of age. With all of these factors, the church was very powerful, and people looked to the church to reassure them of salvation and life after death.
In this culture and society, Luther was tormented by trying to do enough to please God. Luther, like others, viewed God as a righteous God who punishes sinners. Knowing that he was a sinner, Luther didn’t see how he could ever gain God’s favor.
Through his study of scripture, Luther finally came to realize that God is merciful and that we are made right with God by God’s grace. This discovery is still significant for us today. There are still people who feel tormented that they are being punished by God and they can’t do enough to make up for past mistakes. Luther’s teaching of grace reveals that there is no limit to God’s grace and mercy.
When the church of Luther’s day started selling indulgences claiming that for a fee relatives could get a deceased loved one out of Purgatory, Luther saw this as contrary to his discovery of God’s grace. Luther’s 95 theses that were nailed to Castle Church door in Wittenburg were intended to start a conversation with the church. Luther never intended to leave the Catholic Church, but when Luther refused to take back his writings in opposition of the practices of the church, he was essentially kicked out.
Luther’s life involved many dramatic moments including being caught in a thunderstorm, nailing his 95 theses to the Castle Church door, burning orders from the pope, standing before the emperor and leaders of the church, being kidnapped, living life in disguise, marrying a nun, and more. Yet, of all of these different events, it is Luther’s biblical teachings on grace that have stood the test of time. Another one of Luther’s greatest contributions was his translation of the Bible into German, the language of the people, and his understanding that all people should be able to turn to the Word of God.
This month we celebrate the Reformation and Luther’s contributions to the church. Join us on Sunday October 15th at 4:00 pm and/or on Sunday, October 29th for worship at 8:00 am or 10:30 am.