Grace to you and peace in the name of God, the Father, +Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Three years have passed since Lutherans around the world observed the 500 th anniversary marking the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. The year 2017 and the decade prior to it were filled with events focusing on Martin Luther’s 95 Theses and the impact of his reforms on the Christian Church and the world. On October 31, 1517 Luther posted his theses (his points of dispute with the church and its theology), on the doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. The Reformation began that day, however, it did not end with Luther’s invitation for a debate. In fact, this event marked only the beginning as Luther would devote the remainder of his life, another twenty-nine years, to advocating for reform and renewal of Christ’s Church.
500 years-ago in the fall of 1520, Luther would produce three significant writings. These three documents would become known as the Reformation Treatises. His first was entitled To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation. In this pamphlet Luther introduced for the first time his concepts of the two kingdoms and the priesthood of all believers. He challenged political leaders of his day to speak up, act and get involved in reforming the church. Three years earlier Luther had hoped the church could be reformed. With this treatise it is clear he is convinced a break from Rome was inevitable.
In On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, Luther addressed the one, holy catholic and apostolic church. Luther outlined his understanding of the holy sacraments indicating that in his opinion only two of the seven sacraments were Biblical. These are baptism and holy communion. Luther articulated a sacramental understanding rooted in God’s Word, Christ’s command, and a physical component such as water, wine, and bread. In this writing, Luther went on to share the role of faith as an integral part of the sacramental life.
On the Freedom of a Christian In this treatise Luther addressed the paradoxes of Christian life. Luther wrote, “A Christian is perfectly free, lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” This writing continues to inspire Christians to live a life that is rooted in service to God and all. It reminds us just how connected we are as God’s people to one another and God.
This fall around our Reformation observance we will be exploring these three treatises. We will investigate their significance and meaning for our journey of faith today. It has been five hundred years, nevertheless, Luther’s treatises continue to inspire reform and renewal in the lives of God’s people and within the Christian Church.
Your Servant in Christ, Pastor Stephen Herr