Digging Deeper: Reformation Sunday

Digging Deeper: Reformation Sunday

by Sharon Ely Pearson

It was on October 31, 1517, that Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg, and the Church was changed forever. Reformation Sunday continues to be celebrated on the last Sunday of October (the 30th this year), commemorating a significant event in the history of the Reformed tradition in many denominations, including the Presbyterian and Lutheran churches. Dan Clendenin offers an interesting perspective on Martin Luther in relation to the lectionary readings (Year C) from 2007 at Journey with Jesus written by Sam Rowen.

By the end of the seventeenth century, many Lutheran churches celebrated a festival commemorating Luther’s actions. His Ninety-five Theses are a summary of the abuses in the church of his time. At the heart of the reform movement was the gospel, the good news that by grace through faith that we are justified and set free.

Martin Luther said, “This life is not concerned with health but with healing. This life is not about our being but our becoming. This life is not about rest but about exercise. We are not yet what we shall be but we are growing toward it. The process is not finished but it is going on. This is not the end but it is the road.” What perfect words for explaining what Christian Formation is all about!

The “Luther Rose” is a drawing summarizing Luther’s theology. It is a black cross with a red heart, in the middle of a white rose surrounded by a sky-blue field, with a golden ring around the outside of the whole image.

  • The Cross – First, there is a black cross in the middle of a red heart. This reminds me that I believe with my heart that Jesus loves me!
  • The Heart – Even though there is a black cross on the heart and I know that Jesus died on a cross for me, the heart stays colorful and alive. God is the creator and care-taker of all life.
  • The Rose – The heart lies on a white rose like a soft blanket reminding me that my faith gives me joy, peace and comfort. The rose should be white because white is the color of angels.
  • The Blue Background – Blue is the color of the sky and reminds me of heaven.  It is also the color of hope all the wonderful things God has promised me.
  • The Gold Ring – Gold is one of the most precious metals in all the earth. God loves each one of us as if we were the most precious thing in all the world. When I look the ring I don’t see a beginning or an end to it. This is just like God’s love for the world that will last forever and will never end.

Learn more about Martin Luther and others who contributed to The Reformation at Foundations of the Faith, an online exhibit of sixteenth century reformers and their writings. This day continues to be an opportunity to be reminded of the reformers’ belief that the church will always stand in need of reformation.

Litany of Confession and Promise

Our youth offer prophesy of challenge and judgement,

We nod politely with clenched teeth and closed eyes.

Invited to dream dreams,

We prefer the familiarity of the past.

Winds of vision swirl around us,

We close the windows and bolt the doors.

Even on us,

Even here,

The Spirit will pour forth.

Come, Holy Spirit, Come.

Written for Evangelical United Church of Christ, 1998. Copyright Katherine Hawker. Used with permission. 

Download  a session plan from Living the Good News for this Sunday, following the 2011 lectionary readings.

What can Martin Luther teach us today?

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