Captions: 1. Dr Martin Luther. 2. Martin Luther nailing the 95 theses
By PASTOR JACK URAME
Melanesian Institute, Goroka
Luther and the reformation
Dr. Martin Luther, the great church reformer, marked the era between the end of the Middle Ages and beginning of the modern age.
He was branded a radical who went against the church authorities but he stood on the Word of God to reform the church - not to divide the church.
Many people still hold Luther as a wonderfully gifted man to the church of his time who stood for the truth of the Gospel against all opposing threats and powers that almost cost him his life.
The story of this humble and simple son of a coalminer who became a professor of Theology and father of church reformation is an amazing story of the history of the Christian church.
After turning down his father’s will to earn him a good job of a middle class by studying law Luther made a sudden unexpected turned.
Despite all disappointments and anger of his parents, who were struggling for a decent education of their son, Luther was found knocking at the gate of the Erfurt cloister of the Order of Hermits of St. Augustine.
His vow to Saint Anna to become a monk in 1505 when he was caught in a thunder storm on his return trip from his parents’ home to Erfurt was his turning point.
His encounter with a lightening strike that almost cost his life created a world history.
Luther’s diligent study of the scripture led him to new discoveries of the Bible.
He discovered the immeasurable grace of God through Christ.
Many people would agree that if it was not for Luther we probably would have a different church now. Luther, a man full of knowledge and wisdom, had thrown the whole world into confusion in matters of faith, church and religion.
The legacy of Luther lives on and the Lutheran community throughout the world celebrate the reformation day each year on the 31st October.
It was on this day Luther nailed his famous ninety-five theses on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany, for a public debate at the close of October 1517.
Luther did not fear men but God and stood on these words, “I will announce your commands to kings and I will not be ashamed.” Psalm 119: 46.
He remained today an historical church reformer but what he did changed the world forever.
He was standing between the realms of heaven and earth, between Christ and the devil, between the voice of God and the voices of human rulers, between human teachings and the truth of the Word of God.
He was struggling with human powers as well as the devil.
He was a man of courage with no fear of men but of God.
The fearless Theologian with much courage and bravery stood before the princes and rulers and defended the Word of God at the Imperial Diet of Worms (the highest council of the Roman Empire) that otherwise could have cost him his life.
His concluding defence before the rulers and princes that time is well remembered and treasured by many as Luther’s statement of his stand against all odds and enemies. “My conscious is captive to the word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscious is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. God, help me, I cannot do otherwise. Amen.”
His scholarly contemporary, Philipp Melanchthon, once described Luther as “a miracle among men and everything that he said and wrote went straight to the heart and made a wonderfully deep impression on it.”
What reformation means for us today
It is not about Luther but about the amazing story of how God kept his word, the church and the Christian faith alive against all heresies.
Reformation Day is a time to reflect back on the history of the church and the journey of mission and faith of how God in an amazing way planted the seed of the Gospel in the hearts of men and moved them to extend his mission on earth.
Reformation reminds us to be conscious of our task as Christians and Christian churches to carry on the mission of God, to extend the love of Christ and to continue proclaim the word of God in all its purity and truth.
Reformation also reminds us to be aware that we have a duty to defend the Word of God from all heresies and human deceits.
Reformation means to be conscious of our mission aims to reach out to people, touch their lives and help them encounter Christ so that they find a place in the Christian community.
As in the time of reformation the struggle between the earthly and the heavenly, between the children of God and the devil, between the light and darkness is not yet over.
Today, in the changing world this struggle continues.
This challenges us to keep true to our faith and keep shining our lights in the dark world where the devil and his agents still have a playroom in our world.
Like other Lutheran Christians around the world, the Lutherans in PNG still considered the reformation day as an important occasion in their church.
To understand Luther and the reformation is to understand the basic foundations he laid for us in Christian doctrine.
Luther’s teachings were not his but Christ’s.
Reformation was not for his good but for the good of the Christian church.
The members of the Lutheran community take pride in their history not because they are followers of Luther but of Christ.
The reformer himself asked, “What is Luther? After all, the teaching is not mine. Nor was I crucified for anyone. St. Paul would not permit Christians to call themselves Pauline or Petrine, but Christians. How then should I – poor, stinking sack of maggots that I am – be entitled to have people call the children of Christ by my wretched name?”
Lutherans are not Luther’s disciples but followers of Christ.
Reformation Day is not only an occasion to celebrate the religious revolution, which had its time in history and was over, but a time to take our faith and life in God seriously. What happened in history still inspires us today to keep moving forward with determination in order to receive the promise of Christ of eternal salvation.
As we celebrate with joy we also look forward with joy to meeting Christ.