Dear Friends in Christ:
With our celebration in 2017 of the 500th Anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation of the Church by Dr. Martin Luther’s nailing of the 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg, we will now be celebrating a number of “500th” Anniversaries in the months and years ahead. Indeed, we just had one such celebration last month, with the 500th Anniversary of the Diet at Worms, where Dr. Luther stood before the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V on April 17 and 18, and was ordered to recant (take back) his writings. He refused so to do, and on April 18, declared, “Unless I am convinced by Scriptures and plain reason… I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. [Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise;] God help me. Amen.” (The bracketed words are believed to have been said later, and inserted into his comment before the Emperor).
After that anniversary comes this month’s 500th Anniversary of the “kidnapping” of Dr. Luther in the forest of Thuringia on his way out of Worms after the Diet and the beginning of his time in the Wartburg Castle near Eisenach. The “kidnapping” of Martin Luther was arranged by the Saxon elector in order to take Luther to safety without being seen to be violating the Edict of Worms, which declared Luther an outlaw, to be arrested on sight. The 500th Anniversary of that “abduction” is May 4. While at the Wartburg, Luther adopted a false identity, that of Junker Jorge (Knight George), and set about the task writing and translating the New Testament. Luther would remain there until March of 1522.
However, while Luther was in hiding at the Wartburg working nonstop on writing and translating, another important event occurred whose 500th Anniversary is coming up—and that is the first Evangelical Celebration of the Mass (or the Lord’s Supper)—celebrated with both the Body and Blood of our Lord being given to the communicants, and the emphasis being placed on God’s work of forgiveness for His people rather than our work for God. That anniversary will be in September 2021, and I will write more on that later.
Other important 500th Reformation Anniversaries coming up in the years ahead include (but are not limited to):
- The painting of the famous portrait of Luther in knights’ armor by Lucas Cranach in December of 1521.
- Luther’s publishing of the Formula Missae et Communionis in December 1523.
- The Peasants’ War of 1524 –1525.
- Luther’s publishing Against the Heavenly Prophets in January 1525.
- Luther’s wedding to Katherine von Bora on June 13, 1525.
- His publishing On the Bondage of the Will in December 1525.
- His writing of A Mighty Fortress is Our God in 1527.
- The publication of the Small Catechism in 1529.
- And so on…
Why are these anniversaries important for us to celebrate? They all speak to the restoration of the Good News and the ongoing need for the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ among us and to the world today.
Our heritage as Evangelical Catholic Christians (members of a congregation of the Lutheran Confession) is something worth remembering and worth rejoicing in and celebrating. The Gospel of Jesus Christ that Dr. Luther and so many others so boldly proclaimed is still to be proclaimed and declared until Christ comes again. That is our joy and our privilege.
These anniversaries remind us of the lively heritage of which we are inheritors. Let us celebrate them with great joy and thanksgiving for the faithful ancestors in the Faith who have come before us and bequeathed this great inheritance to us. And let us guard it, defend it, and joyfully proclaim it.
Pastor Steven J. Anderson