This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Each year the last Sunday in October is set aside as Reformation Sunday to commemorate the Reformation and the role it played in shaping the church. The following are snippets of an article by Ben Howard I found helpful and hopefully you will    appreciate too.

The church door

According to the well-known story, on October 31, 1517, a young monk and professor of moral theology named Martin Luther nailed a list of arguments against corruption in the Catholic Church to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This list, better known as the Ninety-Five Theses, was    distributed far and wide, along with Luther’s fiery sermons that followed, with the aid of a new  technology called the printing press. This event and the controversy that followed provided the spark    for what one scholar calls “the most significant event in Western Christian history.”

Luther’s grievance with the Catholic Church was based in concerns about the selling of indulgences, which were essentially  pardons for sins in exchange for money. However, Luther’s arguments also extended beyond questions of corruption into theological concerns about salvation, grace and the role of the laity in the church.Luther enthusiastically embraced the idea of the priesthood of all believers, which meant that Christians didn’t require an   intermediary to commune with God. He believed it was the duty of each individual Christian to enter into a personal relationship with God. In the pursuit of this task, Luther translated the Bible into German, the language of the people, along with worship services that had historically only been conducted in Latin. Faith was no longer going to be controlled by gatekeepers; it would be freely available to the masses.

The Reformation also paved the way for the future of the church. While often lionized by those in the Protestant community,   it must also be acknowledged that the Reformation led to serious — and often violent — conflict within the church. Luther may     never have intended to create a schism, but we now live in a world with more than 45,000 Protestant denominations.

Five hundred years after Luther first put ink to paper and hammer to nail, the church finds itself once again in a time of     introspection, questioning and possible turmoil. What does the Reformation have to teach us in a time like this? Michael Root, professor at the Catholic University of America offers: “In the best of all possible worlds, and what I think Luther would want, would be talking about what is the Christian good news? What’s the gospel?” “That’s what Luther cared about. He cared about getting the Christian message straight.” Reverend Amy Butler adds a similar refrain: “What are the things that really, really are fundamental to our faith? . . . People are going to be increasingly asking what makes you different? What do you believe? Why do you believe it? What does it mean to be a Christian?”


At times, the basic questions are the hardest. What’s the gospel? What do you believe? What does it mean to be a Christian? Those were the questions at the root of Martin Luther’s life and they’re the questions Christians around the world ask every day. They’re the questions we ask on this Reformation Sunday.




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