Today marks 500 years since Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses (statements) to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany.
Some years ago, we were on a Cities of the Reformation Tour, and even though I was raised in the Calvinist tradition, the time spent studying Luther meant a lot to me.
I was touched by his wisdom, and marvelled at his faith, even in the face of adversity.
I was surprised by his doubts and worries about certain things in his faith life as a priest, even when things appeared to be going well for him. I stood at his baptismal font, in the church in Eisleben, where he was baptized on November 11, 1483, and I looked at the bed where he died on February 18, 1546, and I was emotionally moved.
There were so many upheavals in his life. He was unhappy with his faith life at times. After a trip to Rome, he was disturbed by the rules and regulations as dictated by the church, especially the paying of indulgences — payment imposed as penalties for certain sins.
Following the posting of his 95 statements, and Luther's subsequent refusal to withdraw some of his calls for reforms, his life was in danger, and he spent a couple of years (1521-1522) in hiding in the Wartburg Castle. While there, he translated the New Testament from Greek into German in just a few months. This enabled the people to read the words of Scripture themselves, rather than having to depend on the priests to do their reading for them. Through all his adversities, he kept the faith.
There were a number of people present when he died, and one of them wrote down the final prayer that Luther prayed, right there in Eisleben. Even 470 years later, it still is such a clear and wonderful testimony:
- O, my heavenly Father, alone God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, God of all consolation, I thank You for revealing to me Your dear Son, Jesus Christ, in whom I believe, whom I have preached and confessed, whom I have loved and praised. … I pray You, Lord Jesus Christ, take pity on my little soul. O, heavenly Father, if I must now leave this body and be torn away from this life, I know yet for sure that I shall live with You forever and that no one can tear me away from Your hands.
In today's secular society, it is just as counter-cultural and risky to stand for biblical principles as it was in Luther's day, and requires, in some cases, just as much courage as Luther had. May God grant us that courage!
Prayer: Our Father in heaven, as we remember the events of the Reformation, help us to appreciate the faith of the reformers and the dangers that they went through. Many were even killed for their faith. We pray that we, when we doubt, will also have the ability to keep the faith. We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.