From the pen of Pastor Mindy …

Have you read any good books lately?

Have you read any good books lately? Recently our church presented Bibles to our Sunday School students. I warned them that we were giving them a dangerous book. There are places in our world today where it is illegal to hand out Bibles. That is because the Bible is filled with revolutionary ideas, ideas that will set people free.
Reformation Day is the birthday of the Lutheran Church. It shares the same day as Halloween. On Oct. 31 in 1517 Martin Luther posted some ideas on the church door, which was like a bulletin board at school, or his wall on Facebook. Luther posted his ideas on that day because it was Halloween. Actually they would have called it All Hallows Eve, which we now call Halloween. The next day was All Hallows, or what we call All Saints Day.
Luther knew his colleagues at the university would see his ideas and discuss them with him. He had written the ideas in Latin, the language for scholarly debate. But they were copied down, translated into German and printed. They spread like a viral video on YouTube, throughout Germany and the rest of Europe.
Martin Luther was born in 1483; he lived in a world changing tumultuous times. Forty-three years before Luther’s birth, Gutenberg invented a printing press. Nine years after his birth Columbus discovered the new world. Luther was a contemporary of Michelangelo, who started work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel the same year Luther joined the Augustinian monastery. The changes that were happening in his lifetime were truly world shaping.
In 1507, he was ordained to the priesthood, and the next year he began teaching theology at the University of Wittenberg. Nine years after he began teaching, Luther nailed his Ninty-five Theses on the Cathedral Church door. Within two weeks they had spread throughout Germany and within two months throughout Europe. The Ninty-five Theses objected to the selling of forgiveness, and challenged the pope’s authority to sell such indulgences. Various emissaries from the Pope tried first to silence Luther.
A few years ago a new movie on Luther came out staring Joseph Fiennes (Luther 2003). It did a good job of capturing what was at stake. In it, Luther debates with Cardinal Cajatan. Luther says: “If common people could read the Bible for themselves they would understand just how broad the church’s interpretations are.”
Cardinal Cajatan responds:  “That is outrageous the scriptures are too complex for even the average priests to understand much less the common man.”
Luther had not intended to start a new church, but four years later the Roman Catholic Church excommunicated him, labeled him a heretic and put a price on his head. Luther was taken into hiding at Wartburg Castle and during this time he began translating the New Testament into German.  George Spalitin, the secretary to the prince Frederic that was protecting Luther, tried to deter him: “This is not the time, Martin.”
Luther: “Well the emperor is going to burn me anyway”
Secretary Spalitin said: “He will burn us all – this is treason.”
Luther: “To have a New Testament in German in words ordinary people can understand?”
Spalitin: “Yes, it’s the thing Rome fears the most.”
If people could read and understand God’s word for themselves the Roman Church would not survive as it had been. It was a scary future that the Roman Church tried to stop. The church was afraid people would learn that John 8:31-32 says: “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
Luther and many other people involved in the Reformation helped make the Bible something all of us can read and study for ourselves. It means we will not always agree concerning what it means or how to understand it. It can be a dangerous book.
Luther lived in world changing tumultuous times and some days he was filled with fear. Yet he wanted everyone to trust in Jesus Christ for their salvation. God’s Word can bring the good news of Christ to all people. God’s word is still feared in too many places in our world, but the Bible is a treasure to be shared not a rod to chastise people with.
We also live in tumultuous times. I take comfort in God’s word that tells us over and over again, about Jesus’ love for us, that God is active in our world and that Christ will win the final victory. Have you read the Good Book lately?
Your Sister in Christ,
Pastor Mindy

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