Reformation 500th Anniversary
Freed in Christ to serve in our homes, our church and our communities (Galatians 5:13-14)
Greetings in Christ our Lord.
As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we are reminded of the truth from Scripture that “the word of the Lord endures forever.” (1 Peter 1:25) Dr. Martin Luther was the instrument that the Lord chose to bring about reform and restoration of the Gospel message. The Holy Spirit came upon him and blessed him with a true and clear understanding of the restorative power of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sins. Today, we, as God’s people, enjoy the fruits of this work of Dr. Luther, and we are witnesses of the Reformation message. We invite you to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with us and encourage you to take time to give thanks for the work of the Holy Spirit at the time of the Reformation. The English District of The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod joins with our brothers and sisters across the Missouri Synod in giving thanks to God for the work of Dr. Martin Luther and for the truth proclaimed in the Reformation message. Please enjoy the information and materials that you will find here on our website. Blessings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Bishop Jamison Hardy
Greetings in our Crucified and Risen Savior and welcome to your English District Reformation 500 web page! As Bishop Hardy says in his welcome, with the 500th anniversary of the Reformation rapidly approaching, we are thankful to God for the work of Dr. Martin Luther and for the truth proclaimed in the Reformation message, of which we are blessed to be witnesses!
Complementing the magnificent work being done at this moment in history by the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod at large to bring the Reformation message to our church and to the world, we in the English District will be focusing our in-depth effort on the teaching that each of us is “Freed in Christ to serve in our homes, our church and our communities.” This theme is grounded in the 5th chapter of the Epistle of St Paul to the Galatians, verses 13 and 14: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”1 The Scripture-rooted concept articulated in our theme was taught by Dr. Luther to the church in 1520 through his treatise On the Freedom of a Christian and dovetails very nicely with Bishop Hardy’s triennium emphasis on loving our neighbor, as well as with our District’s overall emphasis on being a District in Mission.
We are richly blessed to have been gifted with a beautiful banner for our Reformation 500 commemoration! This banner was designed and crafted by Nancy Schultz of Catalina Lutheran Church, Tucson AZ. Mrs. Schultz has tremendous experience and expertise in liturgical banner design; among her recent works is a banner which was designed for the dedication of the International Lutheran Center at the Old Latin School in Wittenberg, Germany. Mrs. Schultz’ banners are invaluable teaching tools and this one is no exception! The center of the banner highlights our theme with the clause “Freed in Christ” represented by the Crucifix on Luther Rose taken from the Missouri Synod Reformation 500 logo. The theme is framed by the “Motto of the Lutheran Reformation”: Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum (The Word of the Lord Endures Forever, 1 Peter 1:25), a “confident expression of the enduring power and authority of God’s Word.”2 The “V D M A” Cross logo was used widely by Reformation-era Lutheran laity as they “struggled to defend their beliefs, communities, families and lives against those who were intent on destroying them.”3 This motto is especially pertinent to our theme, as Dr. Luther explains, “There is need of one thing, and of that thing alone, [in order to sustain] life, righteousness, and Christian liberty. That is the most Holy Word of God, the Gospel of Christ…”4 Dr. Luther further writes, “The apostle, in Romans 1[:1-4], explains what (the Word of God) is, namely, the Gospel of God concerning His Son, who became incarnate, suffered, was raised, and was glorified through the Spirit, the Sanctifier. For to preach Christ is to feed, justify, free and save the soul, if it believes the preaching.”5 The central message of the banner is ringed by a ribbon of gold and set on a white background, gold being the color representing Christ’s Resurrection for our justification (Romans 4:25), and white representing His righteousness imputed to us at our Baptism (Romans 6:4, 2 Corinthians 5:21). Thus, through Christ-crucified for the forgiveness of his sins and Him raised for his justification, the Christian “needs no work, no Law for salvation. For through faith he is free from all Law, and in pure liberty does all things freely, whatever he does, seeking nothing either of profit or of salvation, but only the good pleasure of God.”6 In Christ, we are, as Dr. Luther explained, the freest lords of all, subject to none, while at the same time, the most dutiful servants of all, subject to all!7 Our Christian Freedom is an office to which we have been blessed to have been called, through which we serve in the three “holy orders and true religious institutions established by God:” our homes, our church and our communities!8 All of this we know through the work of the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies us and keeps us in the true faith.9 This is represented by the use of the red emerging from the gold at the top of the banner, the red crosses in the golden ribbon and the background fabric (which contains a rose pattern).
Several of the Districts of the Missouri Synod are planning District-wide activities, including group studies and Divine Services to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Our unique geographic spread in the English District precludes such live in-person District-wide activities; thus we will be relying heavily on our website to provide resources that can be used by groups (circuits, congregations, small group studies) and individuals. One project currently in development, about which we are very excited, will be to tell the stories of Reformation-era laypeople who lived out their vocations in Christian Freedom, pairing them with stories of contemporary laypeople in English District congregations who are doing the same. We hope to have the first of these vignettes available by the 2016 Feast of the Reformation. Work on other resources on Christian Freedom and our vocational callings in our homes, church and communities, is also currently in progress.
We are excited about the journey ahead over the coming 18 months and we invite you to join us! Do explore Synod’s wonderful Reformation 500 website http://lutheranreformation.org, detailing the significance of the Lutheran Reformation centered on Christ-crucified for the forgiveness of our sins, and its ongoing relevance for today. On that website is a very fine blog piece by Pr. Travis Loeslie, St. Peter Lutheran Church, Lester Prairie, MN, which reviews Dr. Luther’s On the Freedom of a Christian, which we highly commend to you, http://lutheranreformation.org/theology/on-the-freedom-of-a-christian/ . Of course we highly recommend the small volume published by Concordia Publishing House which contains not only the Luther 1520 treatise but also several other of his teachings on Christian Freedom, as well as Dr. Melanchthon’s essay on Christian Liberty: https://www.cph.org/p-19300-christian-freedom-faith-working-through-love... Finally, stay tuned for more to come on our ED website!!! Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions, concerns or ideas. God’s richest blessings on you as you prepare to remember and celebrate the 500th anniversary of His Reformation of His church!!!
1. Translation from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Wheaton: Crossway Bibles, 2001.
2. McCain PT, ed. Concordia, The Lutheran Confessions, Reader’s Guide to the Book of Concord, second edition, St Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2006, p 2. See also http://lutheranreformation.org/history/the-motto-of-the-reformation/ which also has some wonderful photographs of Reformation-era use of the motto
4. Luther M. A Treatise of Martin Luther on Christian Freedom. In Luther M, Melanchthon P. Christian Freedom, Faith Working Through Love, A Reader’s Edition, Englebrecht EA, Schaum CP, eds, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2011, p 49. This is the treatise alternatively titled On the Freedom of a Christian.
5. Ibid, p50
6. Ibid, p68
7. Ibid, p48
8. Luther M. in Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper. https://app.simplenote.com/publish/R1d709
9. See Luther M. Small Catechism, Part II, The Apostles’ Creed, The Third Article, in McCain PT, ed. Concordia, The Lutheran Confessions, Reader’s Guide to the Book of Concord, second edition, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2006, p 330
ED Reformation 500 Committee
Rev. Mark Ebert
Rev. Ben Eder
Rev. Tom Engler
Rev. Michael Morehouse
Rev. Jonathan Sachs
Rev. Nick Wirtz
Bishop Jamison Hardy
MUCH MORE INFORMATION TO COME!