Guest Opinion

By: 
ROBERT WEISHOFF

The Day and the Man: What they mean to the Christian church and the world

 

The 31st day of October marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and Martin Luther’s 95 Theses.

In our recent October issue of “The Lutheran Witness,” our official synodical magazine of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, they brought out an article 100 years ago this month.

“The Lutheran Witness” celebrated the 400th anniversary of the Reformation with a special jubilee edition. This article appeared on page one. Even after 100 years, this confession still stands unchanged and challenging to our age.

“The immediate occasion of the Reformation seemed insignificant enough. Four hundred years ago, on the 31st day of October, immense crowds were pouring into an ancient city of Germany, bearing in its name, Wittenberg, the memorial of its founder, Wittekind the Younger. The weather-beaten and dingy little edifices of Wittenberg forbade the idea that the beauty of the city or its commercial importance drew the masses to it. Within that city was an old church, very miserable and battered, and very venerable and holy, which attracted these crowds. It was the Church of All Saints, in which were shown, to the inexpressible delight of the faithful, a fragment of Noah’s Ark, some soot from the furnace into which the three Hebrews were cast, a piece of wood from the crib of the infant Savior, some of St. Christopher’s beard, and 5,000 other relics equally genuine and interesting. But over and above all these allurements, so well adapted to the taste of the time, His Holiness, the Pope, had granted indulgence to all who would visit the church on the first of November.

Against the door of that church of dubious saints and dubious relics and dubious indulgences was found fastened, on that memorable day, a scroll unrolled …

It is from the nailing up of these Theses the Reformation takes its date. That act became, in the providence of God, the starting-point of the work which still goes on, and shall forever go on, that glorious work in which the truth was raised to its original purity, and civil and religious liberty were restored to men.

Our Church, as clearly, in one sense, the mother of the Reformation, as, in another, she is its offspring, the first and, for a time, the exclusive possessor of the name Protestantism, its source and its mightiest bulwark our Church has wisely set apart a day in each year to commemorate this great deliverance.

The 400th return of that day is at hand. From such records as may endure to a future age let the generations to be take note and observe that in this month of October, 1917, there were Christians in these western coasts who rejoiced in the name ‘Lutheran,’ and who confessed the full Gospel in the words of Martin Luther [from his explanation of the Apostles’ Creed in the Small Catechism]:

‘I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own, and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.’”

 

Robert Weishoff is the Reverend Emeritus at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stanford.

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