On this Reformation Sunday, we celebrate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting the 95 theses on the door of Wittenberg Cathedral. There have been essays, books, and films released all year to commemorate this moment which, without hyperbole, changed the world.
Luther set out to correct the course of the Catholic Church and ultimately changed the direction of Western civilization. With the help of the social media of his day, the newly invented printing press, he spread the Word in a new and invigorating way. By putting the Gospel in the hands of the people, in their own language, he showed them the way to a more personal relationship with the Lord. He emphasized the equality of all in the eyes of God. He prized the teaching and modeling of faith in the home. He pointed out that we are all simultaneously sinner and saint. And he centered all his teaching on a simple, elegant, breathtaking truth: We are saved by grace alone.
For his efforts, he was maligned and persecuted. A price was put on his head and he spent years in hiding, years he dedicated to the translation of Scripture. In 1521, called before the Diet of Worms and given the chance to recant, he stood firm. They excommunicated him. Banished from the Church to which he had pledged his life, he persevered – and built the Church to which we belong today.
As we celebrate Luther’s brave and bold commitment to a dynamic Gospel, let us also consider how we can most effectively and meaningfully live the legacy he left us. Let us be eager to teach the Word to all, through study, worship, and example. Let us be bold enough to challenge those who stray from the Lord’s truth, gentle enough to forgive those who fall from His path, and humble enough to recognize that we too stumble and fall. Most of all, let us share the good news that we are saved by grace, and live in the full joy of that holy promise.
“I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.”
Martin Luther, Diet of Worms, 1521