Last Tuesday marked the 500th anniversary of Reformation Day; that day on 31 October 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the castle door at Wittenberg - his 95 questions or disagreements with the Catholic Church of the day. He posted them in a public place to start debate and conversation about the church’s teaching.
At Concordia we started the day with an inspiring devotion about the event from Stewart Kleidon. Some of his words...
One of the things Luther was most against was the sale of indulgences. Indulgences were a kind of free pass for people to do the wrong thing. If you wanted to do a dodgy business deal, you could do so guilt free by purchasing an indulgence to steal. If you wanted to commit adultery, you could pay the right price and go and do it with no fear of God’s judgement.
At the time, the Church was raising money for the building of St Peter’s Basilica. This was a great money maker as people being told that for the right price they could do what they wanted was a sure-fire way to bring in the coins.
Luther disagreed with this teaching. According to Luther, God’s love and forgiveness cannot be bought. God’s love and forgiveness come through grace alone. Luther disagreed with any teaching of the church that went against what the Bible says, and there is nothing in the Bible about earning God’s love or paying for one’s sins.
Luther knew that what he was teaching was not popular among the authorities. They had it nicely set up whereby they decided what was right and wrong and the people would remain nice and obedient as long as things remained that way. Luther’s teachings undermined this authority. Luther knew that making such claims would bring trouble to his life. But he did so anyway, knowing that it is on the Bible and the Bible alone that he could take his stand. We celebrate the work of Martin Luther for calling into question what the authorities of the time were saying was right.
While in hiding he spent very little time procrastinating and even less time increasing his online profile. Within 10 weeks he had translated the New Testament from Greek into German. Luther was a firm believer that the people should have access to God’s word in their own language so they didn’t have to rely on what they were being told it said. If the people had to rely on those who knew Greek or Latin to understand the Gospel, they could be convinced that it says anything.
500 Years later, Archbishop Christopher Prowse, representing the Catholic Church in Australia, and Bishop John Henderson, representing the Lutheran Church of Australia, signed an agreement at St Francis Xavier Cathedral. A copy of the Joint Reformation Statement can be downloaded here.
Around twenty students represented Concordia College, and all Lutheran school students, at various events held during the celebrations, including the Morning Prayer Worship, Ecumenical Lunch and the Evening Prayer Service; along with a joint presentation between Caritas Australia and Australian Lutheran World Service. Our Year 9 Ambassadors read affirmative statements about Welcoming the Stranger in our lives at the end of this service. These affirmations depict the core values of the world’s major religions. A version of the document is available here.
Senior students represented the College at a service held at St Francis Xavier Cathedral in the evening. They read the Prayers of Intercession and lit five candles that represented the five agreements made to assist Catholics and Lutherans to move forward “Together in Hope”.
Head of Senior School