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Friday, October 27, 2017

TRICK OR A TREAT? MARTIN LUTHER'S REFORMATION

A young man stood in front of the church door in the town of Wittenberg, where Luther displayed his 95 theses that led to the Protestant reformation.

This guy was me. Young man with an American passport. In the Fall of 1960. I was 21 years old. There I was, standing before the simple wooden church door, awed: years before, some hand-written points nailed to the humble door but so important in world history.

I knew Lutheran friends. I'd been taught a few basics. I knew that Luther was the founder of the reformation. I knew a bit about Luther's thinking: "By Faith Alone." But I knew little of Luther's impact on politics and even psychology. That came later through reading.

Speaking of reading, at this link you'll find a compelling article on Luther's importance. Please read it.  Very informed and witty. You'll like it.



Martin Luther
Painter: Lucas Cranach, 1529
Hessisches Museum Darmstadt
In the public domain via Wikimedia Commons


For now, follow me on this track: "Was Luther's act on October 31, 1517, a Trick or a Treat?" It's amazing that Luther's rebellion and Halloween both fall on October 31. Let's have a little fun with that.

Luther did his thing and it was a TRICK, you could argue.

  • As a young a priest, Luther had already knocked on the Pope's door, figuratively, by asking for a change in Church fund-raising: Basically, the Church was selling the forgiveness of sins. 
  • The Pope replied to Luther's protest by raising a military force to capture him.
  • Certain nobles decided to defend and protect Luther. That led to vicious wars, especially across German-speaking lands. Death and destruction accompanied the wars.
It was a TREAT.

  • In Luther's mind there was no reason for a priest to live without a wife. Therefore, he married Katharina, a young nun. They lived happily together (but under the protection of a prince). From that moment on, protestant pastors and priests were free to marry. I'm a protestant clergy-person and very glad I haven't had to live as a celibate. Luther's treat!
A TRICK..
  • Luther's revolt led to a divisions and a weakening of the Church. Undoubtedly true in a worldly sense. However, divisions in the church had already occurred in lands to the east and south of Rome as Orthodox Christian churches had left the Catholic fold.
A TREAT.
  • One might say that Luther's revolt strengthened the church by cleaning up its theology and giving power to protestant and reformed church leaders over the past five hundred years. 
A BAD, BAD TRICK.
  • Luther unleashed his tongue and spouted furious vibes at Jews living in German-speaking lands. Causation is difficult to detect in social situations, but certainly his diatribes helped to set the stage for pograms in the Twentieth Century. 
Missing the pomp, the theology, the global reach, the inspired liturgy, the missionary outreach of the Catholic Church? I certainly am. I miss a lot about the Catholic Church. So I could go on arguing Trick or Treat for a long time.



If only Twitter were available in 1517. ML had a God-given gift for short, provocative, unforgettable outbursts, just the sort of message that matches our current social media. More than a match for anything the White House has produced so far in 2017. 

What are your thoughts about it? Was Luther's act on October 31, 500 years ago, a TRICK or a TREAT? As a post-reformation human being, you are free to believe and think your own thoughts. 

Live free. Live Responsibly. In Luther's lingo, Live Faithfully.





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