By Roger Drinnon
Worship opportunities, outreach grants, Web resources and even a Reformation documentary are some of the undertakings for the Synod and its partner organizations celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation throughout 2017. Still, the leader of the Synod’s celebration planning reminds us that it’s all about Jesus.
“Sinners still need Jesus, only Jesus — that’s really the point Luther was making with the 95 Theses. He was fundamentally concerned about pastoral care for God’s sheep,” said the Rev. Randall Golter, who serves in the LCMS Office of the President as special assistant to the president. In this capacity, he is responsible for leading the Synod in coordinating and planning for the 2017 Reformation-anniversary celebration.
“We must remember this celebration is not only for our ears but for those who do not know Jesus; our celebrations need an outward push to others, which is our Lord’s tendency always,” he added.
Golter said a focus on the Gospel led to the celebration’s logo — a reminder that the ongoing center of the Reformation is Jesus, not Martin Luther or any other figure.
“The logo says it all! Luther himself would be embarrassed if the 500th was about anyone else but his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” said Golter. “The logo fits quite well with the New Testament’s emphasis that there is only one Good News in Jesus.”
Worship opportunities, Web resources
However, in acknowledgement of Luther’s leadership, Golter said four dates will be highlighted for special worship opportunities: Nov. 10, 2016 — Luther’s birth; Feb. 18, 2017 — Luther’s death; June 25, 2017 — Presentation of the Augsburg Confession; Oct. 31, 2017 — Reformation Day.
“Sermons and services will be provided, and a hymn-writing contest is in the works,” he said.
Golter said the Synod also is collaborating with Concordia Publishing House (CPH) to develop a website to offer free, downloadable resources, including introductory and focus videos, promotional material and educational material for congregations, church partners and schools to use. He said the website should be ready to launch as early as fall 2016.
‘Stand With Your Community’ grants
The Synod has $1 million available for special grant opportunities. In recognition of the 500th anniversary, these “Stand With Your Community” grants are $1,000 to $25,000 per approved applicant for church projects ranging from a single event to a two-year program. This can be for a new church project, a revision of a previous effort or strengthening of an ongoing effort, outreach program or other activity that meets the grant criteria. The grants are to be used for outreach into communities through partnerships, wedding together Witness and Mercy activities.
In addition to LCMS congregations and specific groups within congregations, also eligible for the grants are LCMS circuits, LCMS schools, LCMS colleges and universities, districts and Recognized Service Organizations. This grant program temporarily will replace the Synod’s national Domestic Grant program for about two years.
Grant applications will be accepted Aug. 1-Nov. 16, 2015. Grant awards are expected to be announced by the end of January 2016. Depending on the initial response, the application period might be re-opened at a later date. These funds are provided through a partnership between the LCMS, the Thrivent Financial Foundation and Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF). Information on criteria, application procedures and related information is available at lcms.org/standgrants. Send questions via email to Reformation.SWYCgrants@lcms.org.
Thrivent Financial also funded production of a two-hour television documentary on the Reformation, set to air nationwide on PBS in 2017.
“The goal of the documentary is to lead the nation’s conversation about the 500th anniversary of the Reformation,” said co-producer Mike Trinklein of Boettcher/Trinklein Media, Inc.
Trinklein said the documentary will depict the epic struggles that occurred during Luther’s time while meaningfully conveying the theological significance of the Reformation to Lutherans and to the general public.
“On one hand, it’s a great adventure story, with chase scenes, kidnappings, political intrigue and life-or-death decisions,” he said. “At the same time, it’s a story about the most important questions of life, including, ‘Who am I? What is my purpose?’ and ‘How do I get right with God?’ Our goal is to weave both elements together in a way that both satisfies Lutherans and piques the curiosity of the secular world.”
Golter said video clips from the documentary will be made available for pastors and teachers for use in congregations and classrooms and for community outreach.
Golter said in addition to partnering with CPH, LCEF and Thrivent, he plans to meet with other ministry partners such as both seminaries, Lutheran Hour Ministries, the Concordia University System, Concordia Historical Institute, etc., to identify other possible collaborative opportunities.
“We also are going to publish what partners are doing in order to give churches ideas on how they might celebrate this event,” he said.
‘Once in a lifetime’
Golter said he anxiously awaits this one-of-a-kind opportunity to celebrate the Gospel and the salvation of mankind.
“This is a splendid opportunity for our beloved church — and church partners around the world — to highlight and magnify this once-in-a-lifetime anniversary,” said Golter. “I can’t wait to see how all the congregations, districts and ministry partners will come up with myriad ways to highlight and proclaim Jesus.”
Roger Drinnon (email@example.com) is manager of Editorial Services for LCMS Communications.
Posted March 31, 2015