Today is Reformation Sunday, and unless you are adherent to the church of Rome (or aren't a Christian of any sort), that should mean something to you…. even if you didn't really know it. Reformation Day is the day that we Lutherans, and those in some other faith traditions, celebrate the beginning of the movement that changed the face of the earthly church forever.
This is the day that we celebrate the act of a radical German monk, named Martin Luther. Martin Luther was an Augustinian monk, scholar, and Doctor of The Church who believed that the church had strayed from the path because of certain practices, and for the sake of this post, I won't enumerate them, let's just say that it was more than Luther could stand. So he made a stand of his own.
Putting the church on public notice about his rebellion, Luther made himself an outlaw and a leader at the same time. His bold stand changed the world.
Martin Luther contended that the word of God should be preached in the language of the people hearing it. He preached that the Bible should also be printed in the common language so that the people could read scripture on their own. He preached that the celibacy of the clergy had nothing to do with being able to proclaim the good news of Christ. Most importantly, Luther believed in the concept of the "Priesthood of all believers", which means that no person needs the intercession of a priest to commune with God.
Luther's bold stand didn't only change the church, it also changed the political map of Europe, because as varying Kingdoms, Dukedoms, Principalities & Free Cities either sided with Luther and his followers, or sided with the Pope, nations went to war. The Reformation Wars had begun.
Take a look at a map of Europe today, and you will clearly see the effects of those wars. Northern Europe is nearly* all Protestant (mostly Lutheran), with southern Europe being nearly all Roman Catholic, with the majority of Eastern Europe still largely Orthodox Christian... all or mostly all, the result of the Reformation Wars (and the last battles of the Crusades, but that is another matter entirely).
Pretty heavy stuff for a 16th century monk, eh?
Martin Luther, and what he started when he nailed his 95 theses to the church door, almost 500 years ago, is still one of the most important acts ever taken by one man in order to do what he believed was right.
Did you enjoy your lesson?
OK, enough lecturing from me for today. Soon, we will be heading out for church (where we will belt out "A Mighty Fortress is Our God"), and then lunch, and then off to the National Cathedral for the big doings up there.
See you tomorrow,
* With the notable exception of Poland which remains staunchly Catholic to this day.