What Christians In Wittenberg Germany Were Thinking on the 500th Anniversary of The Reformmation



What American Christians in Wittenberg Were Thinking on the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

(PHOTO: THE CHRISTIAN POST)Interior of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, on the eve of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

WITTENBERG — American Christians were among the tens of thousands who marked the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in the city where it all began.

Last Tuesday, evangelical Protestants around the world marked the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation. On that day, it is widely believed that an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg. Luther’s theses objected to, among other things, the Roman Church practice of selling papal indulgences.

Church services and speakers commemorated the day in various ways on Oct. 31 and the streets and town square were set up with craftsmen and sellers of all kinds of German foods, beer, and several places where visitors could purchase mulled wine in clay cups.

Paige Brinks and Rachel Dieleman, two friends who are recent graduates of Calvin College in Michigan and are both living in Europe for graduate and teaching fellowships, said the journey was spiritually significant for them.

“It’s a very interesting feeling knowing Luther was here. I’ve been hearing these stories my whole life but to actually see where he lived and the church where he nailed the 95 theses on, it makes it feel a lot more real,” Brinks told The Christian Post in an interview off the main street in downtown Wittenberg.

The two attended the morning worship service at 10 a.m inside All Saints Church (Castle Church), which was mostly in German with certain greetings and scriptures also read in English. The opening hymn was Luther’s famous “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” (“Ein Feste Burg ist Unser Gott”).

Expand | Collapse
(PHOTO: THE CHRISTIAN POST)St. Mary’s Church in downtown Wittenberg, Germany, on Oct. 30, 2017.

“It’s neat to think about the progression of society in 500 years and to see how there is still the basis of religion that still exists. Even though we live in a secular culture, in a time that often puts down the foundations, it’s very inspiring to think about our forefathers, how they were religious and how they influenced us to shape culture,” Dieleman said.

“It was inspiring to have the reminder of Luther’s confidence in his faith and to not be afraid and be scared of what people are going to say or think. Personally, that has inspired me just living right now in France in more of a secular nation and more liberal, just to be firm in my beliefs and to speak up for what I believe in.”

Danielle Hitchen, the author of Bible Basics who made the pilgrimage to Wittenberg for the Reformation’s 500th anniversary with her husband and two children, said Martin Luther is one of the main reasons why she is now an Anglican.

“I started reading Martin Luther’s theology in college as part of our curriculum and Martin Luther talked about the Eucharist and the way it is the climax of the church service and I thought it was so beautiful,” she told CP just outside St. Mary’s church in Wittenberg where Luther often preached.

Hitchen grew up in a nondenominational evangelical household but moved to a liturgical tradition in light of the Reformer’s words, a spiritual transition she describes as “the most meaningful theological move of my life,” one which made her faith more real.

“It’s amazing to think that this man (Luther) who did so much theological work that continues to have ripples 500 years later walked these streets and preached right here in this church. It’s just amazing to be here,” Hitchen said.

The Rev. Michael Kumm, a Lutheran pastor in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod who chairs the LCMS Board of Directors and is from Dakota Dunes, South Dakota, described the day as a “once in a lifetime experience.” He is also the chair of the International Lutheran Society of Wittenberg.

“Having been a lifelong Lutheran I have learned about the Lutheran Reformation all my life.” he noted, recounting the “waft of emotion” that came over him as he got to preach the Gospel at one of the services that took place in the city that day.

With his wife Janet by his side, he told CP he believes that despite the rise of secularism in the West, God continues to move.

“I’m a baby boomer and we were the generation that really started to move away from the church, to be blunt about it. And I see the younger generations coming up today; they are looking, they are searching, they are yearning for tradition, the faithful teaching, the truth. They want to be told ‘what does this mean,'” regarding the Word of God, Kumm said, noting that “what does this mean” was one of Luther’s favorite phrases.

“I really think that [young people] have gotten beyond the previous generations who want to change the church into society. I really think that society is asking God to come back into them and bring the church back into society again. Thanks be to God for that.”

Expand | Collapse
(PHOTO: THE CHRISTIAN POST)The famous 95 theses doors of Wittenberg Castle Church on Oct. 30, 2017.

David Dickey of Fort Walton Beach, Florida, had been planning to be in Wittenberg for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation for 15 years. A member of the Air Force, he and his family were stationed in Germany 10 years ago and thought then that they must return to Wittenberg when 2017 rolled around. Today, they attend a Presbyterian (PCA) church.

“Martin Luther is an awesome example of faith and courage and conviction, which is a very timely message today,” Dickey told CP Tuesday evening, standing a short distance away from the famous Castle Church doors where Luther’s 95 theses were posted.

“It’s so interesting to be an in a place that, five centuries ago, played such a huge role in the Christian church and in the development of the church in the world.”

He regards the 500th anniversary of the Reformation as one event in a long series of events over time that represents the movement of God on the earth and throughout the world.

“The Church waxes and wanes in various places,” he added, noting that you can see what has happened to Germany since Martin Luther’s day.

“But where you see it wane you see it ascending in other areas. And it’s one of the amazing things about the faith — that we can’t predict where it goes or how it goes. But it always goes.”

Follow Brandon Showalter on Facebook: BrandonMarkShowalter

Follow Brandon Showalter on Twitter: @BrandonMShow

How the World Is Marking the 500th Birthday of Protestantism



How the World Is Marking the 500th Birthday of Protestantism

Oct 27, 2017

Five hundred years ago, an unknown monk named Martin Luther marched up to the church in Wittenberg, a small town in what is now Germany, and nailed a list of criticisms of the Catholic church to its door.

The date was Oct. 31, 1517, and Luther had just lit the fuse of what would become the Protestant Reformation. His list of criticisms, known as the 95 theses, would reverberate across world history. The Church would split, wars would be fought and people would be burned at the stake. It was the birth of Protestant Christianity.

Religiously speaking, the Reformation led to the translation of the Bible into languages other than Latin, allowing many people to engage with scripture for the first time. It also brought an end to the controversial sale of “indulgences” — payments the Church said reduced punishment for sins after death, which Luther regarded as corrupt.

More generally, the Reformation contributed to the expansion of literacy, with people no longer needing to rely on priests to read and interpret the Bible. Luther promoted universal education for girls and boys at a time when education was reserved for the wealthy, and believed in the connection between literacy and empowerment, both spiritually and socially.

Luther’s act is taught as one of the cornerstones of world history, even though most historians now agree that it was a relatively unremarkable event which was canonized at a later date for political ends. Nevertheless, it remains a lasting symbol of resistance 500 years later.

So how is an anniversary of that magnitude being celebrated?

Get your history fix in one place: sign up for the weekly TIME History newsletter

The hub of anniversary celebrations will be Luther’s homeland, Germany, where “Reformation Day” has long been celebrated as a holiday in certain states. This year, it’s set to be a full-blown national holiday. Chancellor Angela Merkel, the daughter of a Lutheran pastor, has encouraged German churches to promote a narrative of unity over division in their celebrations.

That’s a line that the Catholic Church and some of the biggest protestant denominations are also keen to stress. On last year’s 499th anniversary, Pope Francis joined leaders of the Lutheran World Federation in Sweden (where Lutheranism is the dominant religion) to hold a joint commemorative service. In his address, Francis said: “We have the opportunity to mend a critical moment of our history by moving beyond the controversies and disagreements that have often prevented us from understanding one another.”

Not long after Francis’ address, the Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury in England expressed remorse for the violence committed there in the name of the Reformation. Hundreds of churches and monasteries were demolished in the 1500s, and many people gruesomely killed, during England’s pained transition from Catholicism to Protestantism.

After 500 years of division, there seems to be a consensus from the top that this anniversary will be one of reconciliation.

But official church celebrations aren’t the only ways in which the milestone is being marked.

In popular celebrations Germany also leads the way, and for proof you need look only as far as its toy economy. In 2015, a commemorative Martin Luther figurine from Playmobil became the German company’s fastest-selling product ever. It took just 72 hours for the initial run of 34,000 to sell out, leading the company to rush another batch into production. A spokesperson labeled the demand a “big mystery.”

Martin Luther is now the best selling @playmobil of all time – with 750,000+ sold! 

RT for the chance to win your own! (GK)

Americans are also doing their bit. A musical entitled Luther: The Rock Operapremiered in Wittenberg earlier this year. The North Dakota pastor responsible for the two-and-a-half hour production describes it as “Hamilton meets Jesus Christ Superstar meets Monty Python.” Performances in Berlin and Wittenberg will mark the anniversary.

And, as the anniversary falls each year on the same day as Halloween, around the world people are taking inspiration from Luther for their costumes. On Reddit’s Christianity subreddit, a post asked whether it would be sinful to dress up as Martin Luther for Halloween. On Twitter, others had no qualms about their plans to do the same, whilst on Amazon, a search for “Martin Luther Costume” turns out enough results to dress a small congregation.

In honor of the 500th anniversary of the reformation, I say we all dress up as Martin Luther for Halloween and nail stuff to people’s doors.

Back in Germany, the broadcaster ZDF is airing a two-part serial entitled “Reformation” commissioned especially for the anniversary, starring Maximilian Brückner as Martin Luther. It is also airing in the U.K. on the BBC, and both channels have also commissioned special documentaries to mark the occasion.

The town of Wittenberg itself is understandably excited; in fact it’s already in the tenth year of a “Luther decade” it proclaimed in 2008. On the anniversary, a “Reformation festival” will see “jugglers, musicians, hosts, craftsmen and people from the Middle Ages” gather in the town center, before the church opens for a commemorative concert in the evening.

For some people, this anniversary may be the first they’ve heard of Luther and the Reformation. But the wide range of celebrations, exhibits, documentaries and even commemorative toys mean that it’ll be hard to escape its legacy, 500 years on.