Ah, those Lutherans. They really know how to celebrate.
How else to explain a whole decade devoted to Martin Luther (depicted here)? Yes, the Luther Decade got under way this week in Germany and will have ripple effects around the world. Or at least the Christian world. Or at least the Protestant part of that world.
It was 500 years ago that Luther, then an obedient German monk, showed up in Wittenberg. He was obedient but ultimately troubled. He couldn't figure out how he ever could be deserving of God's mercy and forgiveness. He tried and tried to be on his best behavior, but inevitably he'd falter.
Then, as the story goes, he was reading the book of Romans and came across a verse in the first chapter -- No. 17, taken in it context -- that showed him that God offers salvation as a gift of grace, not as a reward for good works.
Liberated by this insight, he began to look about the church and find various ways that he thought its practices were in error and out of step with the gospel of grace. Eventually, in 1517, he nailed his 95 theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, challenging the church, and eventually setting off the Protestant Reformation, though that wasn't his goal at first.
Is it possible to make the case that it's time to get beyond Protestantism and to find a way to reunite the splintered church? Indeed. And I say that as a Protestant. There are some efforts at that, but any global church under one umbrella still seems a long way off.
But maybe by the end of the Luther Decade, we'll be several steps closer. Any bets?
* * *
AND TODAY'S TEXT WILL BE. . .
A church near St. Louis encourages its members to use their cell phones to send text messages with questions to their pastor while he's preaching so he can answer them in the sermon, this report says. OMG. ROFL. IOOH.
* * *
P.S.: What do you think of the effort by the Alliance Defense Fund to get preachers this Sunday to violate IRS rules and endorse political candidates from the pulpit? I think it's a terrible idea, though I think civil disobedience is a proper tool to use if needed to make social changes as long as the person committing it is willing to suffer the legal consequences. I hope these preachers are.
To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here. (My column tomorrow will talk about the necessity of reconciliation.)