500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation
On 31st October 1517 a monk named Martin Luther nailed a document to the door of the Castle Church in the small German town of Wittenberg. On the face of it there was nothing groundbreaking in this; it was standard practice for academics and theologians to suggest a topic for debate in this way.
Luther’s public notice contained 95 theses, or statements, mostly criticising the sale of indulgences by the Church. (It was taught by Rome that an indulgence lessened the time spent by a soul in purgatory after death.) Luther had come to the conclusion that the papacy was fleecing Christians with the offer of God’s grace for cash and so he wanted to start a discussion about the need for reform.
At the time Luther had no intention of breaking from Rome but we now know that he had started a process that would lead to a split, not only in Germany, but all over Europe. The fact that our own Church of England has some very different doctrines from Rome, and is independent from the Pope’s authority, can be traced back to that day in October 1517.
And so this autumn sees the 500th anniversary of an event of great significance in Church history. In this parish we’re doing a number of things to mark the date. Beginning on 8th October there will be a series of sermons in which we’ll explore Luther’s teaching on subjects such as justification, faith, scripture, church and the Christian life.
On 15th October we’ll use the 1662 Book of Common Prayer for all of our morning services at both churches. This book came out of the Reformation that Luther started and is one of the Church of England’s formularies – that is, one of the documents that defines Anglicanism – and is therefore a place where we find the official teaching of our denomination. So it’s good for us all to be familiar with it.
On that same day in the evening at St Leonard’s we’re delighted that Bishop Julian is to be our visiting preacher. Julian will be speaking on the significance of Martin Luther; please make effort to join us.
Then on Saturday 21st October St Leonard’s is again hosting the second* part of the Keswick in East Lancashire Autumn Convention from 10.30am to 1.30pm. The speaker this year is Jonathan Lamb and his subject is ‘Confident Faith’.The morning will start with ‘Certain about God’s word’ and will be based on Nehemiah chapter 8. After a break Jonathan’s subject will be ‘Certain about our Life in Christ’, from Colossians chapter 3. These subjects were very much to the fore at the time of the Reformation – and, of course, they still have great relevance today.
Outside the parish Blackburn Diocese is holding a service to commemorate the anniversary at the Cathedral at 2pm on Thursday 19th October.
Yours in Christ