Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Celebrating Reformation (Part III)

(Continued from Parts I and II)

After posting the 95 Theses Luther began a prolific career as a writer. He began to put in print his views on the corruption of the Catholic Church and on the biblical doctrine of salvation by grace alone. His works became widely circulated and caused quite a stir. Pope Leo X referred to Luther as “a wild boar loose in God’s vineyard.” It was something the Catholic Church could not overlook.

In 1520 Leo X issued a Papal Bull (pictured at right) excommunicating Luther from the Church and ordering him to Rome within 60 days to recant. Luther responded by burning the Bull at the gates of Wittenberg on December 10 of that same year.

In 1521 Luther was ordered to appear before the Diet (Assembly) of Worms to recant. To help insure his appearance he was guaranteed safe conduct to and from the Diet. Seeing it as an opportunity to defend his positions, Luther agreed and traveled to Worms. After hours of study and prayer Luther refused to recant saying, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God. Here I Stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”

He was declared both a heretic and an outlaw. While he had been guaranteed safe passage a conspiracy had been hatched to kill Luther on his return trip. Luther’s friends, apparently, were aware of the plan, because they donned masks and “captured” him while he traveled through the forest on his way back to Wittenberg. They galloped away in the darkness with Luther and thwarted the efforts to kill him.

He was taken to a castle known as the Wartburg in the Black Forest. Here he hid from the Catholic authorities. He used his time to translate the Bible into German, as it was his firm conviction that the Word of God belonged to everyone, not just religious scholars.

Eventually he left the Wartburg disguised as a knight named Junker Jorg (pictured at left). He continued to write and preach, producing hundreds of volumes and thousands of sermons over the course of his ministry.

It is my hope that churches will focus more attention on educating members about the wonderful historical legacy we have in the foundations of the Protestant Reformation rather than spending time focused on the pagan origins of Halloween. October can be a wonderful time of exploring an incredible story, one filled with courage, conviction, daring escapes and rescues, horsemen dashing through forests, hiding in castles and, most of all, the restoration of biblical doctrines on salvation. October is our month to celebrate reformation.

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