Belief in brief: Reformation Day

Friday, October 23, 2009 | 2:46 p.m. CDT; updated 3:42 p.m. CDT, Friday, October 23, 2009

COLUMBIA — Before the calendar flips to November, many Protestants churches will celebrate Reformation Day. This festival day, traditionally observed on the last Sunday in October, commemorates the nailing of Martin Luther’s “95 Theses” to the door of a Roman Catholic Church in Wittenberg, Germany, on Oct. 31, 1517.

During Luther’s time, many Christians were illiterate and relied on the Catholic clergy for biblical guidance. In this sense, the average 16th-century citizen had little recourse against the growing church corruption.

For centuries, the Catholic priests had been granting church members indulgences, or reprieve from temporal punishment. Initially, the church offered indulgences to those who performed certain religious works, such as charitable acts or reciting prayers. In Luther’s time, this practice had become a way for the church to take financial advantage of its members, as priests began selling indulgences.

A German priest and professor, Luther (1483-1546) was horrified by the church’s sale of indulgences and its focus on justification by good works. Luther drew his view of salvation from the Bible’s Book of Romans, in which Paul speaks of salvation by God’s grace through faith. Luther is now widely known as the father of the Protestant Reformation because of his confrontation of the church.

“The term reformation has been used to describe the series of changes in Western Christendom between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries, most focused in the sixteenth century,” according to the Presbyterian Historical Society Web site.

Luther’s message spread throughout Europe after his theses were translated from Latin to German and reproduced using the then-new moveable type printing press. Other famous European Reformers were Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) in Switzerland, John Calvin (1509-1564) in France and Switzerland and John Knox (c. 1510-1572) in Scotland.

To read an English translation of Luther’s “95 Theses,” go to The Book of Concord Web site.

Several churches in Columbia and the surrounding area will be celebrating Reformation Day.

“We definitely observe it,” said Campus Lutheran Church pastor Dave Benson. “The title of my sermon is ‘By Grace Alone, By Faith Alone and By Scripture Alone.'”

At St. Andrew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Sunday’s services will include Reformation-themed hymns and brass accompaniment, said parish administrator Sheryl Mehrhoff. The ninth-grade members of St. Andrew’s will be confirmed at the 11 a.m. service, during which they will present projects that relate to their faith.

“We consider this a very festive service,” Patty Kespohl, Trinity Lutheran Church secretary, said of the church’s Reformation Day celebration. “We do enjoy the celebration of the Reformation here at Trinity.” Special additions to Sunday’s services will be brass instruments and tympani, hand bells and the choir.

A joint Lutheran Circuit Reformation Rally will be held Sunday at Trinity Lutheran Church in Jefferson City at 3 p.m. Members of Lutheran churches in Columbia and Jefferson City will be participating, and visitors are welcome.

Russ Bowder, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Jefferson City, will be preaching from the Book of Romans, said Peter Lange, pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church in Eldon, who is coordinating the service. The group will sing traditional Lutheran hymns, especially Reformation-themed selections such as Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” Fellowship and refreshments will follow the service.



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